The sun looks old. Wrapped in a blanket of dense smog, the smoldering disc climbs low in the sky, heralding the start of a new day in suburban Beijing.

Migrant workers stir from their peasant slumber in flimsy make-shift-blue-roofed corrugated housing in a series of groans and sighs. Donning boots with matching hard-hats, they swig Baijo and light-up in-between mouthfuls of packet noodles. Today is another day on the ubiquitous building sites that litter Beijing’s cityscape, and these are the real stars of the show. 

The early afternoon heat leads to heavy rain. Mammoth drops wonder aimlessly through the sky, crashing down into the lives of peasants and nouveau riche alike. Gucci-clad animal furs dart from mall to mall in vibrant yellow Lamborghinis, eyeballs glued to black mirrors, planning their Friday night on the town. Tonight there’s a whisper of a VIP party at the newly refurbed Ambassadors residence, cocktails at Alchemy, Mexican in NLGX, then off to the late night bars in Sanlitun and beyond.

For others, a menu of Baijo and noodles in a wet, bright-blue corrugated shed will suffice.

The rain lifts as a new moon lights up the dusky city, Beijing breathes a warm glow across its skyline to a firey crenelated horizon.


D4 / 14 – 24 f2.8 / Beijing

Sanlitun throbs with a rythmic beat, pulsating veins criss-crossing, vessels carrying their cargo to and from the dazzling array of boutiques and eateries lining the artery walls.

Four Elements – Fire

D4 / 70 – 200 f2.8 / Beijing

A stark metallic bulge emanating from behind Tienanmen, the National Center for Performing Arts could very well be an escape platform for times of alien invasions, zombie infestations or an all-out meltdown. Skirting it’s circumference runs a medieval moat that stops all but the brave, or stupid, from approaching the blemish-free paneled hull. Orbiting like satellites, small electric police cars wizz by, chasing would be intruders who step too close to the water’s edge.


D4 / 70 – 200 f2.8 / Beijing

Red Wall

D700 / 50 f1.4 / Beijing

Rising high above Tiananmen the dominant Red Walls of Beijing’s most revered Hutong keep out the prying eyes of passers-by. The once bustling inner courtyards link one another through ancient stone arches, each emerging to wide open spaces filled with an emptiness of biblical proportions.

A Crowded Ecosystem

D4 / 70 – 200 f2.8 / Beijing

80 percent of domestic Chinese tourists are in 20 percent of the places, states the guide book, and a trip to China supports this rather intense fact. The famous destinations in the guide books are notoriously crowded as internal tourism has grown rapidly over the past 15 years. However, in order to escape the suffocating crowds, a short walk away from the main site can often offer surprisingly quick relief.
If one hopes to take a quiet break on the national holidays then one can think again; the national holidays are the busiest – during the Golden Week holiday in October 2013 Macau was the most densely populated place on earth! This drive by the central government to increase domestic tourism has boosted GNP and there is no sign of a slow down; municipalities battle one another for this lucrative market in an attempt to reach their astronomically high quarterly targets set by central government. China is pitching provinces against each other in order to take advantage of the growing wealth of the middle class.


D4 / 70 – 200 f2.8 / Beijing

The Other Chaoyang

D4 / 14 – 24 f2.8 / Beijing


D4 / 14 – 24 f2.8 / Beijing

I leave feeling like I’ve just waged a war and am not sure if I won or not. My heavy rucksack suggests I found a few items of interest, my hoarse voice that I negotiated my heart out, my empty wallet that I didn’t barter well enough.


D4 / 14 – 24 f2.8 / Beijing

A Stark Reality

D4 / 500 f4 / Beijing

Huangyaguan Changcheng

Maurice is first to slip under the main gate, deftly ducking and rolling under the China-red wrought iron gate, and with an almighty creak unbolts the locked blockade from inside. The monolithic gateway gently swings outwards, leaving just enough space for us to slide through before locking it tight once again…

Flashgun vs Shotgun

FLASHGUN VS SHOTGUN What started with an innocent purchase on the outskirts of Kashgar's bustling cattle market, ended with a full-frontal shotgun submission in the farthest reaches of China’s western borderlands. Growing up, I watched the Moomins on television, read...

The Great Wall

THE GREAT WALL Grey mists and a stiff breeze usher in a welcome morning, eye-lids rocking open to swirling cloud overhead, a rolling, tumbling viscous soup caressing the wooded landscape. The dense valley tree line acts as a natural filter, slowing the smothering...

After 15 years shooting digital, my field-work attitude had shifted for the worse; I became accustomed to the high FPS my Nikons could turn over, became lazy when bracketing for HDR, began to abuse high ISO, just accepting the grain in all weather. I’d even leave my tripod at home and just make do with image stabilistion. Above all, I’d become lazy, relying on technology to finish a process I’d start in my mind. I didn't start like that during my analog days; back then it was sacrilege to 'fill the buffer', as it were - we thought, composed, and captured with each and every click. Romanticised maybe, but true.

So I changed.

Capturing one solid image for a collection is pretty easy, anyone can take a great image with a bit of skill, practise, and luck. Seriously, anyone. Two great images - still not hard and sometimes they even look good together. Three, four, and five start taxing the cranium; you need to start thinking ahead, above, and beyond. You start to sweat. Working up to ten images takes dedication, time, and skill, but once you have your collection, you get a real sense of achievement.

Forcing ourselves to select a limited number of images amongst an infinite number of possibilities enables us to think deeper about our photography, it gives us motivation and focus during times of lack-luster malaise, and it aligns our thoughts, encouraging exploration and thematic expression in collections.

IOIMG isn't typically about obsessive image matching for competitions or exhibitions (although I'd go so far as to say the images in your collections should, in some way, compliment each other), nor is it particularly constrained when choosing subjects or themes for image pools; I like to use  IOIMG as more of a guiding principle designed to help maintain standards and encourage exploration in my photography as I explore the many different avenues within the discipline.

Without a guide, we'd get lost.

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