Far East, Far West

CONTENT Photography and essay
DATE 2009
ISBN 9782922892376
FORMAT 30.5 x 25.5 cm
LANGUAGE French, English
PRICE $49.95
In bookstores

Quebec photographer Benoit Aquin presents his first book Far East, Far West, a magnificent album on one of the most critical environmental phenomena of our times: the inexorable desertification of Chinese territory, also known as the Chinese Dust Bowl. From Beijing to Kashgar, through the steppes of Inner Mongolia, Benoit Aquin has photographed desolate landscapes and captured the reality of people's daily lives amidst the tumultuous dust storms. At a time when the future of the environment is at stake, Aquin's work lends an equally dramatic and aesthetic perspective to the disasters and challenges we will sooner or later have to face. 


Benoit Aquin is known for his photographic essays on major humanitarian and ecological causes. A long-time contributor to world newspapers, he is now working as an independent photographer. His work is featured in permanent collections of several Canadian museums. In 2008, Kofi Annan presented him with the prestigious Pictet Award, the first photography award dedicated to sustainable development, with an accompanying grant of $100,000.

Journalist Patrick Alleyn has accompanied Benoit Aquin on all his travels throughout China; his writing transports us to these infertile regions, clearly explaining the phenomenon and its humanitarian and environmental consequences. With his narrative and travel journal, the author conveys the reality of a country, vividly relating events, anecdotes, and personal observations made during his journeys to offer us a more intimate understanding of the subject. 

The preface of the book is written by Olivier Asselin, renowned independent filmmaker (Un capitalisme sentimental, La liberté d'une statue, Le siège de l'âme) and art history professor.


Aquin’s photographs also possess extraordinary beauty, all while resisting conventional aesthetic forms. Their composition is discrete yet exceedingly subtle. [...] These images thus refuse to stabilize or perpetuate their motifs; instead, they express the volatility of reality, its transience. They do not cultivate the “decisive” moment, another cliché of photography: here, every moment is unique yet somehow banal, like everyday life itself, which endures even in face of silent threats. 

Olivier Asselin

From Beijing to Urumqi, from east to west, the K43-T69 train crosses China’s great northern steppes before following the legendary Silk Road. Cutting through 3,343 kilometres of dusty grasslands, dried-up riverbeds, threatened oases, and deserts both ancient and new, the train could be dubbed “the desertification train.” For two days, lulled by the rhythmic clang of metal wheels on rails, the passengers pass through a dreamscape of steppes and deserts, but the view also reveals one of the most severe environmental disasters of our time: the Chinese Dust Bowl, one of the largest conversions of fertile land into desert anywhere in the world.  

Patrick Alleyn


“Here is an extraordinary book from a visual stand point. There is nothing sensationalistic about the book; it quite simply takes us to China and shows us the impact of desertification on a daily basis, suggesting that the end of the world could be caused by population growth. But most of all, it makes us feel this dryness on our skin, in our nostrils. The book makes us thirsty.”

Josée Blanchette, Le Devoir  

“When we flip through Aquin’s book with its interesting foreword by Olivier Asselin, we uncover a rigorous, refined, and impeccable work that evokes such strength. A nicely published work comprising this high calibre article that can be ranked among the most thrilling of those about China produced in recent years.”

Antoine Tanguay, Photo Solution