Intimate Views of China through the iPhone: Photography by Kelly Dawson

Kelly Dawson – a multimedia journalist and artist living in Beijing – goes past the narratives of rapid Chinese economic growth and industrial development (that we often find across major news outlets) and gives us a more human picture of the country. She takes images of couples in trains, children playing with peas, young women in high-rise apartments happily looking at the city, old people seated on benches…all this through the iPhone.

Kelly writes: “My first love was writing, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized I might have more to say in what I see. I’ve always taken photos, but what I’ve found in Beijing is the strange freedom of being viewed—and respectfully dismissed—as an outsider in a city of more than 20 million people. Who knows why foreigners do what they do? I’m mostly free to do as I like.

“It’s a frenetic, noisy city, and I’m surrounded by people everywhere I go. I’m taken by the small, funny moments on display, the quiet bits hiding in plain sight. I’m not a technical photographer by any means, and have found that my iPhone has given me the cover to take photos mostly unobserved. I do also take portraits, and with children I do usually ask permission.”


Kelly Dawson


Kelly grew up in Hong Kong, and relocated to the US as a teenager. She studied creative writing and then received a master’s in journalism at Columbia University in New York City, where she lived for almost a decade. She considers herself an expat at heart.

“Recently there have been concerns that the rules are tightening,” the photographer adds, “and that Beijing might not always be so free. But I’ve also heard that the local Chinese feel differently, that the ramshackle structures and makeshift details we foreigners find so charming are an embarrassment they’ll be glad to see go. As an American expat, I have no real stake in how this city evolves. I’m just watching it happen, and I feel fortunate to be here.”

Links: Website ( | Instagram (

Images used with permission.