Epilogue – Themes While Bicycle Touring Through China

After looking back through all 800 photos I shot while on bicycle tour through China with Mission Workshop and Factory 5, I had a hard time breaking it down to a cohesive gallery show.

What I began to notice were themes in the photos, not apparent as I flipped through the files, but when I printed out a selection of photos, they began to tie in together. These themes represent not only my eye for cycling in urban environments, but also my background education and professional career as an architect.

China really changed my perspective on the world as a whole. I saw beautiful landscapes destroyed in the name of progress and capitalism. I witnessed a precious and old culture wiped out to assimilate with a preconceived notion of luxury. Everywhere I looked, I saw western civilization to blame.

Globalization, our desire to own and consume had changed China. Granted I had no benchmark for the status quo, I could only gather enough information through examining the landscapes.

The Chinese build for the sake of building. Supply and demand is a skewed balance, tilted in the former’s favor. This growth is unwarranted and most importantly, uncontrolled.

So where did this bike tour fall into place? It was, after all, Mission Workshop’s idea. While I was given no direction, no instructions, I did have really, complete freedom to do what I wanted.

We had an agenda: test out the new US-manufactured Acre clothing while riding a bicycle through some of the most polluted areas of China and document the trip for a gallery show. Was it successful? I’d say so…

Which brings me to this post: a selection of 50 photos, all shot with my Mamiya 7ii and Kodak Portra 400. These photos break down into illustrative observations, all of which are noted in the photo’s title. Some are obvious, others are not.

You’ll see the themes fairly easily and I’d like to hear what you have to say about them. Feel free to critique / comment, just be polite and constructive.

Many thanks to Mission Workshop / Acre, the Factory 5 crew and anyone that helped us on this journey.

  • http://www.rideforadream.ca/ Micah

    Wow, great shots. The Mamiya never fails!

    Did the masks help? I am leaving on the Silk Route http://www.tourdafrique.com/tour-overview/?t=silk-route in May and am considering bringing one for the first section from Shanghai.

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      Masks with a filter help a lot!

  • Gaby Mollinedo

    you are a heartbreaker John! that older woman is so adorable!

  • Tyler Shannon

    That cruiser is fire! These are real good, the film was a great choice

  • Mauro Tittoto

    Incredible how you spot some of those image while pedaling, this selection really tells the essence about what impressed you about China. Plus I’ve to agree with the exquisite equipment choices!

  • Jamie McKeon

    brutally dystopian…

  • http://abovemountaintops.tumblr.com/ Tinj

    Really diggin’ the nature set! It’s so..metal

  • Sretsok

    Incredible. Inspiring. You’re killing it.

  • Richard Hardy

    The film makes for the most amazing colours. They’re beautiful. Favourites are definitely the woman in the market and the photo of Jeff cornering with bamboo. Stunning… There’s a “feel” to the film I can’t quite describe but you can tell…

  • http://www.wearefactoryfive.com/ Tyler Bowa

    Fantastic shots dude! Thanks for the love.

  • Kerry Nordstrom

    Fuck, the masks are depressing.

  • Guest

    Love these shots! What camera are you using?

  • Stefan Darlan Boris

    Wonderful pictures. Thanks for sharing – also camera info :) Just out of curiosity: Do you use the built-in light meter only?

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      The Mamiya’s light meter is spot on. That’s all I use.

  • BikeHermit

    Hipsters in China

  • Sean Curran

    Its real cool to see your architectural background come through on these. I’m sure its always there, buts its very evident with these. This is a very good set.

  • Julio Saenz

    Posts like these are the reason I first started visiting your page some odd years ago. Posts like these are the ones that have me coming back daily. I studied photography for years and your page always makes me wish I had kept going.

    • Adam Miller

      Never too late to pick it up again! (Not saying I’m any good. I’m terrible with a camera.)

      • Julio Saenz

        I’ve been thinking about it! Just waiting for the right machine to come along haha. That, and my laptop was recently stolen so I have to replace that. Life, man. hahaha. Thanks!

  • endless horizon

    What region of China were you riding?

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      From Shanghai, west.

  • Aaron

    Thanks for that. Your photo sets can be straight up transcendent, mystical journeys at times.

  • Wade Stevens

    man, I’m in Guiyang, Guangzhou now, and it’s mind-boggling the amount of construction is going on. and the roads here would be almost un-rideable except for a mountain goat.

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      #SurvivalCross!