I’m continuing with a three part series on a trip I recently took to the QingHai country side of western China.  You can check out parts 1 and 2 here:  Light & Shadows & Colors & Shapes.  For some backstory, see below:

Last month I visited GonLung Jampaling Monastery in HuZhu county, QingHai, western China.  HuZhu is one of the hidden treasures of western China because of it’s vast and varied minority mix – Mongolia, Tibetan, Muslim, Han.  Just to give you an idea of how confusing things can get in HuZhu, the location we visited was a Tibetan Buddhist monastery composed almost entirely of ethnic Mongolians who spoke Chinese.  Tibetan Mongolian Chinese speakers whose cousins are probably Muslims.  Yeah, exactly.


One thing I’d say to anyone interested in culturally-based photographic fields (travel, humanitarian, storytelling, NGO) is this – Don’t miss the people.  Please don’t miss the people.  I truly believe if we miss the people we’ve missed out on 99% of the reward that comes from travelling.  As a story teller a human experience is almost always the crux of a story.  That interaction, respect, and experience is necessary to understanding the story.

Miss the people, miss the stories.  

But it’s so much more than telling compelling stories.  The people we meet and interact with while travelling will be what we remember most when looking back on our time in a new place or culture – that has overwhelmingly been my experience.  Folks that we get to take out for workshops and tours almost always come away deeply touched by a human interaction, remembering it much more than any photo instruction we could have given them.  The human interactions, the stories, and the cultural exchanges I’ve had over the years have made a huge impact on my life, all for the positive, and it’s something that I hope people who travel can experience as well.

Make it a point to engage people when you travel.  It can be hard, but there are great resources available for those who are interested.  I can’t recommend enough that you take a look at the following list of people and organizations.  They are by far and away the best in the industry at valuing people and their stories.  Beyond that, they are all fantastic photographers – which is not surprising.



Other Photographers…all smarter than me, better than me, & worth listening to:


This is not the post I really meant to write today, but I feel it’s an important message and one that I’m obviously passionate about. Forgive me for my ‘preachiness.’  I’m just a really big fan of the peoples and cultures – understanding and respecting them.

I hope you guys enjoy the images!


Like all lists, there is no way to make a comprehensive one. Initially the list above was just a hand full of photographers I’ve worked with or knew personally – knew their hearts and their heads and their work.  If’ I’m going to recommend people to you, I’d like to do it faithfully.  If you know of someone that deserves to be on this list, by all means, add them in the comments below and tell us all why and how they are great at focusing on people.  We need more photographers who value people and cultures.  A person or group not being on this list is by no means intended to be a conscious or deliberate dismissal of their work or character. As always, add to the conversation below!