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a multimedia photography book that combines life stories with visuals to illustrate the lives of voyagers along the Silk Road!
An intimate portrait series of the voyagers along the Silk Road
An intimate portrait series of the voyagers along the Silk Road
51 backers pledged $8,887 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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Silk Rail Road - a photography book about the voyagers

$8,887

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Our mission?

  • To photograph the voyagers on the Silk Rail-Road
  • To share the unexplored cultures and faces of Kazakh and Chinese people today (through portrait photography and life stories in a photo-narrative format & live multimedia updates from the road including videos and sound clips)
  • To create the 'Silk Rail Road: From Astana to Beijing' photography book (available as e-book, softcover, hardcover & gallery prints). 

The Silk Road Project

What is this project all about? 

The ‘Silk Rail Road: From Astana to Beijing’ photography book is an intimate portrait series of the voyagers (we’re shooting the trains and stations too!) along the Silk Road Rail. We will tell the stories behind the people we meet on their journey from Astana, Kazakhstan to Beijing, China. Retracing Marco Polo's footsteps, our photographs will capture the richness of cultures, lifestyles and individuals on the rail. Ultimately, our project creates a voice for Kazakh and Chinese people to visually illustrate their lives to a wider audience on their own terms.

What's our inspiration?

As strange as it may seem, the ideas behind this project grew out of an interest in the life stories of everyday subway-riding New Yorkers and Kazakh nomadic tribes. At first, we thought about how everyday people share this intimate space on the subway, but they don’t really talk to each other. On previous journeys, in Kazakhstan, we met pastoral families who loved to share their fascinating life stories, lifestyles and culture with us. On one train ride (many of which are over 24 hours) we got to know a group that shared vodka with us, telling us that they would be insulted if we didn’t drink with them. Their enthusiasm to meet us made us realize that in contrast to the subway, the Silk Road train was a cultural exchange in which there were stories to be shared. 

As we worked on the project, our personal connection with the series grew stronger. As first and second-generation immigrants of Kazakh and Chinese origin, this series reflects our fears and struggles of not belonging. There were many times in our lives where we didn’t feel like we belonged at home because we just looked different. In China, there was a sense of amusement, ridicule and overall ambivalence in being a so-called ‘westernized’ Chinese person. Ultimately this portrait series not only explores the faces of Kazakh and Chinese people, but also delves deeper to examine what it means to be Kazakh and Chinese today, offering visual language on contemporary life at the Silk Road. 

What will the photography book look like?

Our multimedia approach to this project is unique. The photography book is a series of portraits (in a narrative format) accompanied with small life stories to evoke a sense of who each person is. There will be fascinating life details, historical knowledge and a digital soundtrack to enrich the reading experience. Our Ebook, on the other hand, is made to be as interactive as possible. On the Ebook page, we are embedding the atmospheric sounds of the Silk Road. Along with each portrait of the voyagers, there will be the sounds of his voice included so that you can not only see him, but also hear him. Our blog will also feature live updates from the Silk Road including various videos (landscapes and interviews) and sound clips (eg. the sounds of a marketplace). We want you to feel as if you were on the Silk Road. 

(sample design by asier)
(sample design by asier)
(sample design by asier)
(sample design by asier)

Where are we traveling? 

This series is a photographic journey over 2,500 miles. This adventure starts in Astana, Kazakhstan as we board the ‘Silk Route’ train to Almaty and Oskemen. 

Following Almaty, we board a train (34 hours) straight to China, where we will be entering into the Xinjiang province. 

Here, we are visiting the fascinating cities of Urumqi, Turpan and Kashgar, an old trading junction on the Silk Road. 

Once we leave Urumqi, we are boarding a train (24 hours) to Gansu province, the beginning of the ‘old’ China proper. In this province, we are visiting the capital Lanzhou, Dunhuang, Linxia and Jiayu, the beginning of the Great Wall. 

From the Gansu province, we will boarding a train (15 hours) to the Shaanxi province to reach Xi’an, the traditional centre of the Silk Road. After Xi’an, we will finally end our trip in Beijing.

Where does all the money go? 

  • Firstly, a portion of money pledged on this trip will be used to send postcards and newsletters to the people we meet on the Silk Road. It's important for us to establish a relationship. As such, we want them to see their part in our project. 
  • Secondly, the majority of the pledges (roughly 75%) cover the costs of creating the book itself. This includes:

                        1. Studio Time - e.g. editing suite for video and photography

                        2. Graphic Design - e.g. working with our graphic designer; interactive media development (online/print/iban/azw)

                       3. Executive Editing - e.g. quality control 

                       4. Production Costs: 

                                  a. material costs - e.g. 100 GSM Inkjets Pearl paper; perfect  /cross-stitch binding

                                  b. printing costs - e.g. Giclee prints

                                  c. sample prints

                                  d. isbn & iban number purchases

                       5. Logistics

   a. Inventory & Warehouse storage

b. Shipping, Packaging & Distribution  

  • Thirdly, the remaining portion of the pledges will help cover parts of the costs of the journey. 

So if the Silk Rail Road photography book has interested you, please explore the opportunities on the right side of the page and pass the word to anyone you think would be interested. Together we can see this project through, and in return you will be receiving one inspiring and beautiful book! 

Thank you very much for reading. We hope you are as inspired as we are about our project. Follow us on our blog to see exciting updates and photos from the road! 

Additional Reading:

Detailed travel information on Xinjiang

Travels of Marco Polo – Volume 1

Travels of Marco Polo – Volume 2

Silk Route by Train

History of the Silk Road

A Great blog about the cultural aspects of Silk Road 

P.S

If you are an international backer, please include $15 dollars more for international shipping and handling.

If you are with a shop and are looking to sell copies in your store, please contact us.

silkrailroadbook@gmail.com

Support this project

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $1 or more About $1.00

    For only $1, we are doing a name exchange! You give us your name and we’ll swap names with a voyager! We’ll give you his name and pass it to you over the blog. You can use nicknames if you like!

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    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    A HUGE THANK YOU and your name on our online blog as a supporter! You will also receive exclusive updates from on the road including photographs, sound clips and videos!

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    Reward no longer available 2 backers
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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    UPDATED REWARD:

    You will receive a DIGITAL POSTCARD of a voyager along with his name and a small life biography about him along with the exclusive updates from on the road!

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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    You'll receive the DIGITAL copy of our photographic book! This interactive Ebook is easy to read on your iPAD or tablet (available in formats: iba, AZW, PDF, ePub) and will include embedded sounds of our journey with each portrait. Your name will also be included on our online blog as a supporter.

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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $35 or more About $35

    You'll receive a small PRINT of a voyager along with his life biography and a DIGITAL copy of our photographic book! plus your name will also be included on our online blog as a supporter.

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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $80 or more About $80

    You'll receive the first edition HARDCOVER copy (limited to 1000 copies) along with the DIGITAL copy of our photographic book! Your name will be included in the back of the hardcover copy as a contributor and included on the online blog.

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    Pledge $125 or more About $125

    You'll receive the first edition HARDCOVER copy (limited to 1000 copies) along with a GALLERY PRINT of your choice and the DIGITAL copy of the book! You name will be included in the back of the hardcover copy as a contributor and included on the online blog.

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  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    You'll receive an autographed first edition HARDCOVER copy (limited to 1000 copies) along with 2 GALLERY PRINTS of your choice as well as the SOFTCOVER and the DIGITAL copy of the book! Moreover, you are a PATRON of the Silk Road Express! You will have the opportunity to sponsor a single page. Your name will be listed above a portrait of your choice. No one else can sponsor the same page as you!

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  9. Select this reward

    Pledge $3,250 or more About $3,250

    You are the EXECUTIVE PRODUCER of the Silk Rail Road! You will receive a specialized crate that includes a miniature train, exotic spices, silk & an assortment of delicatessen from the Silk Road! Moreover, you will receive the SUPREME photography package! This includes the 4 A1 Gallery Prints, a personally dedicated to YOU version of the Digital & Hardcover copy of the book. As executive producer, you will have the opportunity to sponsor 5 portraits and a personal dedication from us.

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Funding period

- (32 days)