China: The World's Last Steam Railway Review

China: The World's Last Steam Railway
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China: The World's Last Steam Railway ReviewWhat a spectacular book! I ordered this sight-unseen while buying the new Jim Shaughnessy work, and what a surprise! This is simply one of the most beautifully-photographed railway books in my collection. This all-encompassing look at the final years of steam in China was really an eye-opener: I had a chance to go see "the show" back around 2000 but didn't, and after seeing this volume, I've been either kicking myself (for obvious reasons) or truly glad I didn't, as there's no way my world would come close to holding a candle next to the three British photographers who created this essay.
I'm a member of an internet group which spends far too much time sniping and arguing and debating about "art" vs. "rail photography." This volume raises the bar so high as to what is possible, so it's a shame this book has been rarely discussed among the general population of American railroad photographers. These photographs aren't just "art"--they're journalism, a stunning record of a time and place in the world on the verge of destruction. The photographer's weren't so obsessed with the subject--steam locomotives--that they neglected how these wonderful machines fit into the Chinese landscape and local culture.
Very little, to me, seems to have escaped their cameras (I would've loved to have seen a bit more photography of the men who work on the machines, preferably on the job), and it is a wonderful bargain at under $24. The printing and reproduction are first rate.
I appreciated the end-paper maps locating where some of these photographs were made, but the addition of rail lines to the maps of place names would've helped me make more sense of how the steam lines fit into the national system.
I'm still awaiting the Shaughnessy book, the reason the China steam book was ordered in the first place (Amazon is sending them separately), but so far, I haven't missed it a bit!China: The World's Last Steam Railway Overview

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