mark unrau – china train



China Train by Mark Unrau


This image was taken of a Chinese business woman on board the controversial train heading from Xining China to Lhasa Tibet. This train is the Worlds Highest and is an engineering wonder. At its highest as shown here in the photograph is an astounding 5000 meters above sea level.

90 Responses to “mark unrau – china train”

  • (Gosh… landed somewhere up in the woods. So here it comes again:)

    Hi Cliff,

    interesting thought. Actually I think we just have 4 links here – some were posted more than once – and of these 4, 2 links show works from Mark.
    The other links were posted to … how do you say that in English? … “give evidence” to something that was said. Referencing. In my oppinion that is not rude but necessary and important for a good discussion. Like in a research paper, where you have to state where you got your information from. Sometimes information is not right. How will you consider that if it is enough to say that you heard/or read it someplace?

    So I hope you understand if you see it from this angle …

    And well… yes … we were talking about Mark’s image. But as we kind of bumped into a dead end and the question stood in the air, wheter he had desaturated part of the image (why?) or if it maybe was just something else that had happened there (and then there would be no “why?”). We would just have loved to know that so that we could go on with the discussion without being on the wrong track.

    Guess that is fair enough … :))))))
    Sorry if you found it rude.

    Peace and love to you too.

  • (sorry, this comment above was supposed to appear somewhere else…)

  • I’ve just had a chance to look at Paolo Pellegrin’s piece and I just don’t see where it fits into the debate (thanks for the links though, Bob).

    Color correction and such are hardly the same as selective color, are they? I guess to ultra-purists, some argument could be made that the photographer is affecting the mood of the pictures by picking a muted color palette, but by that rationale, any b&w’s after the advent of color emulsions would be looked at the same way…

    I’m going to re-read the thread and try (again) to figure out what Pelligrin’s and Mark’s pictures have to do with each other.


  • convert the picture in photoshop into grey tones, then you have a very fine photograph. this one looks kitschy to me.

  • ..or leave the whole in colour….

  • stefan :))

    that’s it…one or the other ….for me, in this case for sure, i think the added color is a distraction, even as a kind of metaphor (women inside: modern, alive, warm, blood landscape outside: eternal, harsh, unchanging, ice, etc), it separates the woman from the landscape…and what i am drawn to in this photograph is the landscape and her extraordinary expression…as i said, i love the tension between her business suit and the starkness of the landscape + the expression…but i think, in this case, i hunger for connection: all b/w or all in color….

    i think the reason why lassal mentioned Paolo (and why i provided links) is because when discussing work, it’s also nice to have references…not that this work is compared to anything else (although that is natural too) but just as a reference for conversation…

    what still holds the pic for me is her extraordinary expression…and that against this barren, high, imposing landscape…and in this sense, that cannot’ be altered by PhotoShop…that’s still the strength of this photo and I am happy to see it:

    in the face, the expression, lay our memories, dreams, longings and losses…

    and that is the mark of a strong photograph! :))

    cheers Mark


    p.s. I’m beginning to actually think the ‘REPLY’ button/comment is more a distraction than an aid…cause we dont get the ‘chronology’ of the comments…or the natural dialogue…i think i’ll stick with writing the way we did at RoadTrips….it’s quite a roller coaster following all the Replys ;)))

  • “Why is there links to other photographer’s work when there is dicussion of a post? Does this strike anyone as rude, unfocused, divergent of purpose?”

    No, the use of links to other images in this discussion doesn’t strike me that way at all.

    Actually, I find links that are, as Lassal and Jared have pointed out, meant to serve as contrasts, comparisons, or discussion points to be helpful in discussing an image.

    good light,

  • Bob, in some aspects I agree – there are pluses and minuses for the “reply” capability….look in over in “Dialogue” for an idea I suggest that, if possible to implement, could maybe give us the best of both worlds.

    Now, back to regularly scheduled programming, discussing this image….

    I at first took the difference in color saturation to be the result of tinted wondows or something….but the more I look at it, the more it distracts me from this great capture of mood and synchronicity between the woman’s pose, expression, and the landscape and sky….

    I like it, but I think I’m in the camp that would find it more compelling if it were all B&W or all desaturated color.

    good light, all.

  • While I agree with Bob (and some others) that it is interesting, and important, to discuss the work with the creator (photographer) I do not understand all this call for him, in this case Mark Unrau, to explain how he got the results shown in above photograph. Photographer makes these decisions and presents the work… I don’t care how he did it technically. Do I like it or not, do I understand the visual language of it or not, do I care about the content or not, does it work on me or not… that is important to me.

    I know it is internet, therefore discussions get all over the place, but I imagine 99% of the people here are photographers. All these heated discussions, especially on essays, are beyond me.Should have been done like this, should have been done like that??? It’s done! I take it or I leave it. If I feel commenting I send the comment directly to the photographer. Every different way of treating the photograph (color, b&w, desaturated, painted, upside-down, whatever style) has it’s audience… None of the styles satisfies everyone! I understand people leaving comments here but I can’t understand why many feel that everyone should fall for the same thing.

    I honestly did not expect such a variety of different work here at Burn, but I’m very happy that Burn (David) goes for it all. It has become a place I have to visit every day and mostly because I know I’ll see something different than the day before (whether I like it or not).

    Cheers to you all. Veba

  • Right on, Velibor….my sentiments exactly. I think you communicated this much better than I. Peace and love.

  • I think there is one thing upon which we would all agree. And that is the point Veba raises:

    “It [Burn] has become a place I have to visit every day and mostly because I know I’ll see something different than the day before (whether I like it or not).”

    Kudos to David! Getting us here is more than half the battle. Burn’s daily hits must be off the charts…


  • I like the basic image a lot. However, I am not a fan of mixing B&W and color (i.e., selective desaturation). I think the image would be stronger as a straight B&W. The contrast between the tibet high desert scenery (stunning) and boredom stands on its own w/out photoshop…

  • Has anyone actually talked to Mark and asked about the image? It could be a lot of discussion over an image that may not have been manipulated at all.

  • i’ve never been a fan of selective coloring and this image didn’t change that.. compositionally i think it works well enough but the selective coloring really kills it for me.

  • If color is representative (here) of the soul, then it fits perfectly. China, by occupying Tibet, is imposing its presence, slowly killing the Tibetan soul.

    That is how I personally read it, I don’t know the intentions of the photographer, nor are they important, to me.

  • I totally agree with you, and I would like that the persons respect the work of the photographers, the photographers put many of them even in their photography.

    Best, audrey

  • Pete
    That was exactly my point …

  • but I imagine 99% of the people here are photographers -Velibor Bozovic

    like you said Velibor, this is a place where photography is presented essentially for photographers, not un-initiated spectators. Does it surprise you that Photographers will behave this way? Are the questions really that sinister… Audrey?… Cliff?… Velibor?

    Actually Cliff, some of your comments have seemed a bit strange in the past, but we’ll leave those in the past, but you did make me grin when you said Velibor’s comment matched your sentiments ‘exactly’ Cliff ;-) Anyway, if you only come here to look at the images as spectators, is there anything that prevents you from doing that?… Audrey?… Cliff?… Velibor?

    listen, i don’t think any photographer that submits an image here is under any illusion that they’re only going to get a list of ’fantastics’ and i don’t think anyone is pressuring anyone to submit an image, and i suspect we will not run out of submissions any time soon. so if it ‘ain’t’ broken…

    also don’t forget that maybe… just maybe… some of these image promotions are supposed to stimulate some deeper thinking and that thinking should be shared with the community. It’s not helping anyone if it’s squirreled away in someone’s Google mail inbox, and that personal e-mail approach makes for quite a burden for the tog to respond individually to each of those e-mails, when they could respond once to the community.

    i love the off-line discussions taking place about the ‘thought’ of submitting based on the thrashing that’s taking place here, but the over-riding ‘sentiment’ seems to be individuals are excited about the effort and the interest ‘good or bad’ they will receive. No where else in real life or on the internet will they get such a deep exploration of their image.

    And no one is holding a gun to anyone’s head and making them give up the combination lock to their piggy bank. The photographers here are asking questions in a genuine, sincere, and for the most part well thought out way; some times the Author responds, some times they don’t. C’est la vie.

    so respectively, Velibor, i couldn’t disagree with you more. i do hope we continue in this deep-thinking spirit, sure some of the efforts will seem like a witch hunt, maybe some of this image’s discussion has shifted towards a witch hunt, but even if i find that behaviour less than ideal, and a bit embarrassing for the community, i’d rather have the occasional conversation discomfort than to squelch all conversation entirely, that would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater, no?

    by the way, i also have a sinister side, and the sinister side wants Mark to tell us that he didn’t selectively desaturate, he just desatured the entire image and the outside’s bland landscape become more mono-tone than the rest, then all the witch hunters can go back to Salem, but i don‘t think and i hope Mark doesn’t think he has any obligation to reveal anything, no featured photographer does!

    i’m really amazed more people didn’t pick up on the ‘audience’ aspect of this image, this image pleased an enormous, and for the most of us, appealing name… NG. Mere coincidence? Should we be rethinking some of the processing dogma even for images not destined for pure art? hmm.


  • Eva

    I can find proper tralnslation for word but overinterpretation it will be good I think.
    Of course you can feel and see whatever you wish you are third part of this game, but general you go to far for me.

    In this way we can say anything about everything, and it’s not a point. Isn’t it?
    If everything have so wide meaning then everything will have no meaning. If everything is super then nothing is super.
    If you will read tibet occupation in this picture we will don’t need read it in more representative pictures.
    Then we need only pictures of trees and sea or leafs to say about worldwide hunger.
    this is not the rule of photography for me.
    I hope you will undrestand my point.

    must run

  • “Should have been done like this, should have been done like that??? It’s done! I take it or I leave it. ”

    That’s my understanding of a magazine. The work, once finished, has a certain authority which you might dislike but in a way you can’t expect to correct.

  • Jean,

    I think I agree about the selective desaturation (leaving color in the woman’s face). However, I am a fan of desaturation of color throughout an image. Pieter Ten Hoopen does it quite well:

  • i don’t think anyone’s requesting any author to correct anything Joni, just explore it…

    everyone’s heard the quote “The unexamined life is not worth living.” …Socrates said it. does everyone know the circumstance of him saying this?

    he said this at his own trial for heresy. Socrates was actually on trial for what we would later celebrate to be the Socratic Method. Because Socrates encouraged his students to challenge the accepted beliefs (much as we are doing now) he was actually sentenced to death. he carried out his own execution by drinking Hemlock Poison.

    even when Socrates was offered exile, he still felt death was better than a life ‘unexamined’. One of Socrates students was Plato, and one of Plato’s students was Aristotle; each were members of communities not entirely different than this, each with loads of questions, and i suppose sometimes they participated themselves, and other times they were in the room when others asked questions, that when answered would lift their own ideas or help them to better shape a more important next question.

    now i don’t think we should all be philosophers, but is it silly to suggest we should all behave like students while we participate here on Burn?

    or should we just accept the images here as dogma? should we just accept them as Joni has mentioned to have an ‘Authority’? Should we, as Joni suggested in the past, kill off the comments under the images and the essays and reduce the chance for challenge and discussion?

    i know Joni and others may base their no-commments feelings based on the concept of a printed ‘magazine’ but the concept of a magazine has to be enlarged to the concept of a community of readers AND members, the concept of pictures in a magazine has to be expanded to a concept of participation. You can find loads of traditional magazine concepts over here:

    i guess i hope we don’t accept things as the ‘authority’ once they show up here. i hope we challenge everything about them, especially if it relates to the prevailing wisdom. maybe some of those challenges will lead down a dead-end street, but most won’t.

    and luckily no one will force David to drink Hemlock for putting us up to this effort.

    just my opinion of course.


  • No problem Ross, thanks for putting me straight; I didn’t check my bookmarks. It’s no use pointing people to a photographer and giving a link to the wrong website!

    Best wishes,


  • “or should we just accept the images here as dogma?”


    I have to say that I represent my own modern vision of solipsyzm. I hope it will give you answer for your question.

  • ‘Know Thy Self’ philosophy is of course valuable, it’s no surprise that Socrates subscribed to it as well,… but if you’re interested in the art of communication, like photography inherently is, then outward thinking philosophies are equally important Marcin ;-) teasing you of course. :-)


    you make such a good point…and while you are making this point, i was in fact considering the wisdom of having featured essays or singles subjected to comments at all….normally in a magazine it is fine to have a blog where readers can comment, but to have specific pictures or essays directly blogged may not be such a good idea…the amount of original content created specifically for BURN is going to grow…whether or not the discussion remains as is will be decided soonest….

    cheers, david

  • My suggestion would be to ditch the comments facility. Discussion of the work should take place on a blog, linked but separate.

  • There isn’t enough work being done that could be featured in BURN that you need to solicit material created specifically for the magazine? The danger is that the relationship between the magazine and those so solicited becomes incestuous, and you end up with “BURN photography,” like there is “NatGeo Photography.”

    As for changing the format and not “subjecting” essays or singles to comments directly, I find the current format the most interesting thing about BURN. Otherwise you end up with just another online photography magazine. It’s the in-the-face interactivity that I find interesting.

  • straight PJ work aside, selective black and white in a photo can work out well.. it may not be my taste, if it´s in the pallet of possible manipulations and can add to a photograph then it´s fair play to me… dodge and burn.. so on..
    in this case i would rather have seen the colour outside.. just me.

    happy new year all.. hope your christmas and new year was good..

  • Velibor, I understand what you say and want to ask: why there is a comment function here? if we should send our thoughts to the photographer directly…


  • Hi David,

    of course everyone will strive to make happen any change to this existing format optimistically, and of course the cup is always going to be half full… but there is a swell of energy unique to this place and this space that is entirely instigated by the images and essays.

    i hope any alternative to this existing feature will allow this energy to be rechanneled with the same degree of intensity :-)

    Best Wishes,


  • Marcin, to say what the woman is thinking is less far fetched for you? We have absolutely no idea, nor of what she thinks, nor how she feels. It’s our own interpretation, our own feelings we talk about.

    If I read the caption I see the word ‘controversial’. That, combined with my own knowledge of the Chinese/Tibetan situation lead me to think what I wrote. Of course nobody has to agree with it, nor do I think that the photographer was going for it.

    I don’t think that we need ‘super’ (whatever that means) or poignant pictures decipting a situation, sometimes also subtler ones work. Depends of course on the knowledge of the viewer about a certain subject.

    Thanks for your thoughts :)

  • Joe, Stefan… This is what I said: “I understand people leaving comments here but I can’t understand why many feel that everyone should fall for the same thing.”
    I have no problem with comments, obviously there should be comments since there is a link that says “comments”, but expecting that all of us (thousands perhaps) should like the work or not like the work for the same reasons is well… unreasonable.
    This is how it works for me Joe… I look at the work first, than I read the comments if I have time. But not once I changed my mind, in regards to my initial feelings about the work because someone said this or that. In fact, I don’t think any of you changed your mind because someone’s comment. Therefore I find it pointless commenting here that the work should be done like this or like that. The only person that might (maybe but maybe not) care about such comments is the author of the work. SO, my comments of that sort (if I have any) go directly to his email account. That is all.

    However, having said all of that, I really enjoy reading all of this:-)

    David… Have you seen my question regarding the “multimedia” submission? The way the submission page is set up it doesn’t work for “multimedia” submissions. If you provide an email address where we should send the authorization for you to look at the work that we upload somewhere online, than you could see the work… For example, I just uploaded something to Vimeo page and it is “private”, I can share it with you but need an email address to send the authorization to. Perhaps that could be the way to submit these “video” pieces?

  • I hear you Velibor :-) i wasn’t tring to put words in your mouth, just advocate the benefit of discussion. By the way, i really enjoyed the images on your blog, exactly the kind of moody images i wish i could more easily make, i was only sad to see so few entries :-) -Joe

  • I badly expressed myself, I am for comments, and I respect the fact that they like or that they don’t like series, but sometimes, the criticisms are nasty and not constructive… but maybe it is my bad English and I do not indeed understand all

    best, audrey

  • I know you were NOT trying to put the words in my mouth Joe. I never thought you did, otherwise I wouldn’t discuss anything with you…

    Thanks for the comment, there will be more entries but the blog is not my priority at the moment.


  • Wow, I’m glad I got a big response to this photograph. There is a couple things I would like to mention about the caption and the process of the image. I mentioned that this train in controversial. I didn’t feel the need to explain more as I am not an expert on the politics of the situation and I feel that by at least mentioning it; if one were to be inspired to investigate they would find lots of information out there from more authoritative sources. In short though, the reason that the train interests me most on a political level is how this will influence Lhasa and the Tibetan way of life. Many Tibetans that I know are against the train. They feel that it will bring more Chinese into Lhasa speeding up the homogenization of their culture with the Chinese. There is a large number of Tibetans who still want a free independent Tibet. China’s intentions are very clear that they are using the train to unify Tibet with the rest of China.

    The image is selective in color. The shot was made with the Canon 5D and I turned it into B&W. I masked through to the original color image to bring her skin tone back to her face. I did this for purely aesthetic reasons. I had no intention to stick closely to any photojournalist line of ethics. For publication with a newspaper or any source that requires different guidelines, I have a black and white and color version ready to use. One of my favorite photographs by W. Eugene Smith, “The Wake” (1950) shows a woman in the center staring at the deceased. In fact during the exposure of the image she was looking at the photographer. Mr. Smith later re-directed her gaze to the deceased through dodging and burning. knowing this never distracted me away from the truth of the image for me and my appreciation. Its always been an interesting debate concerning image manipulation. Even making a lens choice is in one manner manipulating the moment a photographer captures. As for my image, I’m glad many like it and have made a connection personally with it. Photography for me is meant to move people emotionally in any manner.

  • That was the other essay from Pellegrin I was talking about. Finally found it.

  • This image simply stops time. Like a pause much needed.
    For this I am deeply grateful for..
    Thank you Mark!

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