Charlotte Temple

In Southeast China many of the young have left for the cities leaving the old and the very young at home among the villages and terraced fields. They return with new prosperity and new ideas, changing forever an ancient and tenacious way of life…. While the photographer laments the disappearance of the beautiful old villages and old customs, the harshness of the old way of life is giving way to a new freedom and the intrusions—finally—of modernity.
— Charlotte Temple
© Charlotte Temple

© Charlotte Temple

Charlotte Temple took her first trip to China in the fall of 1987. What she found there were places of great beauty but a country filled with cultural dissonances. At the time, the cities and commerce of China were beginning to look to the West and a form of capitalism that was called “socialism with Chinese characteristics”, but in the countryside people lived much as they had for centuries, even as change encroached on them. What started as a project to document an emergent new China soon presented an even more irresistible challenge: to capture the people and the life of these disappearing cultures.
Her work thus came to focus most intensely on that vanishing China, especially the life of its rural and tribal areas. One major body of her work--which encompasses portrait, still life, and landscape--concerns the province of Guizhou, where she lived with an ethnic Miao family in a small village over several trips. More recent projects have taken her into the ancient kingdom of Kham in western Sichuan as well as eastern Tibet and the northern and eastern parts of the Tibetan Autonomous Region. But her work has ranged over the entire country. Over the years, she has worked in the provinces of Guangxi, Shandong, Qinghai, Ningxia, Anhui, Shanxi, and Fujian, along the Yangtse River and the Silk Road, and in the fraught Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China's far northwest. Along the way, for more than thirty years, she has also made a major study of Chinese gardens in the Shanghai Delta and the area around Beijing.

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