I’m finding it a little difficult in getting my head around this one – as in comprehending that it’s been this long. I first stepped into China almost 20 years to the day. Well, in April of 1994 to be exact.

Touring Southern China

I left Heathrow and headed over to Hong Kong to begin my 5 weeks tour of China. From Hong Kong, I took a boat up the Pearl River to Wuzhou. From Wuzhou took a bus and headed up to Yangshuo. There, I spent a few days in Yangshuo before heading up to Guiyang in Guizhou province by train, this from the train station in Guilin. I took another train from Guiyang to Chongqing. From Chongqing, took a river boat down the Yangtze River, passing through the 3 Gorges – as it existed then. At this time, the Three Gorges Dam, was still under construction. Eventually, some two days later, I disembarked at the river port town of Yichang. From Yichang, I took the train up to Luoyang where I spent a few days. From there, I headed across to Nanjing and then down to Shanghai where I spent another few days before finally heading back to Hong Kong.

That this trip took all of 5 weeks is one thing. Doing it on one’s own was quite something else. In all of this, I didn’t fully comprehend let alone realise the extent and the size of this nation. Essentially, all I did was travel through the southern regions of the country and even then, hardly touched sides, so to speak.

There was more to this trip than wanting to traverse one of the largest countries in the world. There was photography to be done – some personal, some commercial.

The image above was taken during my stay over in Yangshuo. On this day, I had hired a bicycle in the town and was cycling through the back country. While I was shooting some landscapes, this farmer, his spouse [I presume] and their two cows made an appearance along this country road. It wasn’t as though they hadn’t seen Europeans before – so, nothing special in this regard. As it is, for the international traveller community, Yangshuo is or was famous for its laid back lifestyle and as a long term stopover for many backpackers and itinerant travellers.

He Who Travels the Lightest…

As a side note on this trip – I was particularly proud of the fact that all I had with me was one small travel bag, the size of which I could have used as carry-on luggage if I had to fly. In there I had 3 changes of socks and jocks, a pair of jeans, several pairs of long shorts, 2 shirts, 2 t-shirts, a pair of running shoes, my walking boots, washing and shaving gear, a towel, a mug, a bowl and some eating utensils, my Lonely Plant guide to China and of course, camera body plus several lenses and, the biggest thing in the bag, a Tupperware box filled with film. And, that was it.

More images from whence this image is derived can be found here in this collection – China Road.

The basic remit of this, The Lost Years Project, is to raise funds to bring this image together with its associated body of work and other related photography done between 1976 to around 1994 together, to digitise the negatives from which these images are derived and then, to create various products such as prints, print portfolios and books featuring this photography. There is a wealth of photography here that should find its way into the public realm – one way or the other. The PDF eBooks I have on offer here are but a small token of this effort. There’s a lot more from where all this came.

About Rogan Coles
With over four decades of professional working experience in the field, Rogan produces images that are telling and compelling. His expertise in corporate branding and architectural photography has earned him a reputation as an accomplished professional in these fields. On the flipside – Rogan’s passion is social documentary photography and visual storytelling. As a visual storyteller, Rogan brings his own unique perspective to each of his projects, capturing the essence of the story being told. Rogan has worked extensively on architectural, corporate and editorial assignments across Asia, in the UK, Canada and across southern Africa.

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TECHNICAL NOTES: The camera used in the making of this image was a Canon F-1 and a Canon FD28mm f/2.8 SC lens. The film used was likely to have been Ilford HP5 and developed in Ilford’s Ilfotec HC, a black and white film developer.

This article was originally written and published January 11, 2014 on a predecessor to this website and uploaded here on 12 June, 2018.


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