Monday, September 11, 2006

Ryan Pyle Blog: The Introduction

Hello. This is the beginning.

I have begun a blog to tell you a story about life in China. The "life" that will be described in the following blog will be both mine, and of my subjects. The word subjects referring to those whom I document.

In this initial blog, I will introduce myself and my purpose. The reason for the introduction is because I want you (the reader) to know who I am, to know my background and my reason for being here. My hope is that this knowledge will better prepare you to follow my story.

I am a Canadian born documentary photographer based in China. A documentary photographer basically means that I photograph real life in order to tell social, environmental, and political stories. I take my job very seriously. China is perhaps the fastest changing country in the world, billions of dollars of foreign investment are pumped in to the country each year, it's important to understand as much as possible about how that money is spent, who it is reaching and who is being left behind.

Another reason why I take my job very seriously is because the Chinese Media (local media) is restricted and censored. That simply means that the Communist Party, the single party that governs China, controls the media and has final say over what exactly is published. With that being said, the local media is getting more aggressive and starting to take more chances with reports on corruption and environment disasters, but in the end, they can only go so far before risking jail sentences. It is, therefore, essentially the job of foreign media to tell the stories of China, and its citizens; to help those who are unable to visit the country better understand what exactly is happening. I am proud and honored to have such a role as a journalist covering China. I personally feel there is no greater story in our time as the rise and development of China. The country's growth and development will have an incredible impact on life in every country around the globe; from coal miners in Sudan to oil rig workers in the Gulf of Mexico.

I was born in Toronto, Canada on September 20th 1978. I spent my entire youth living and being educated in Canada. I graduated from the University of Toronto (International Politics) in 2001, I specialized in Asia - focusing intensely on China.

After graduation I traveled through Europe and then in September 2001 I made my first journey to China. It was a solo mission. I spent three months wondering around China's most extreme environments. I journeyed through the French quarter in Shanghai, I strolled through the hutongs of Beijing. I snapped pictures in the airport hanger that houses the terricota warriors in Xi'an, I ventured to the heavily militarized border area of China and Kazahstan where I was arrested and spent four days in custody. Fresh from release from jail, I hitch hiked in to Tibet where I walked from Shegar (4000m) to Everest Base Camp (5200m) (about 90km) and then back out again to the town of Tingri (another 75km).

Needless to say, that initial trip to China inspired me in ways that few things in this world can. Within two weeks of returning home I had my bags packed and was headed on a one way ticket to Hong Kong - which was to be my base for further exploration in China. The stories from that first trip, including my arrest and hike to Everest, are currently being put together as part of my first written book. I first person travel narrative, about people and places in China. Fingers crossed, it will be out sometime in 2007.

Back to my story, in November of 2004 I made the decision that Hong Kong just wasn't close enough. So I packed my bags again and moved to Shanghai, my current base of operations. It wasn't until my move to Shanghai that I could properly call myself a photographer. While my stay in Hong Kong was fantastic, it was simply too expensive, offered too many distractions and at the end of the day - it just wasn't China.

My move to Shanghai left me isolated and focused. I began to work on producing features and promoting my work to magazines and newspapers around the world. My first few sales were to local expat magazines based within China. The pay was horrid, the edit was always bad and the experience left me frustrated and feeling hopeless. But I kept working at it and things got progressively better, a few jobs from the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong and then a break through - a gig with the New York Times.

From June 2005 to August 2006 I had a part in producing about 30+ stories for the New York Times working with such excellent journalists as Shanghai based Howard W. French and David Barboza. The NYTimes is a great newspaper with perhaps some of the best international news coverage in the world. It was a fantastic experience working for them, and my 14 months being associated with that publication was like going through a four year bachelors degree in journalism.

And this takes me to where we are today - sitting in a hotel room in Paris, blogging. It is September 11, the five year anniversary of the attacks on the USA. I have the live broadcast from ground zero buzzing in the background while I work. I am exhausted after having just spent the last 8 days enjoying a photography festival in Perpignan, France - making contacts and promoting my work. I am excited about returning to Shanghai. My experience in Perpignan has left me incredibly motivated and ready for more work. My work schedule for the next few weeks is filling up. I'll hopefully blog often, but please be patient if a few days go by. Today has been good.

As for what tomorrow holds, watch this space.

Ryan Pyle
Skype: ryanpyle

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This is Ryan Pyle. I appreciate you adding a comment to my blog and I hope that this space has offered you something useful and interesting. I look forward to staying in touch and I'm glad you took the time to comment.

Ryan Pyle