About
192PH

Nadav Kander

Yangtze, The Long River

2006–2007

And as I stood again and again looking at the water flowing past, I would wonder if the water that I was watching was water I had seen on previous trips having flowed to the ocean, evaporated, become a cloud and fallen as rain. All things cyclical. Nothing lost.

The Yangtze River, the main artery of this body of work and of China, flows over 6,500 kilometres (4,100 miles) from the country’s most westerly point in Qinghai Province through both the most sparsely and densely populated regions, to Shanghai in the east. With the river as a metaphor for constant change, I photographed the landscape and people along its banks from mouth to source. I worked intuitively, trying not to be influenced by what I already knew about China. I wanted to respond to what I found and felt. Although unconscious, it seems no coincidence that I travelled up river, against the current.

More people live along the Yangtze’s banks than in the whole of the United States: that is one in every eighteen people on the planet. It is the single largest pollutant to the Pacific Ocean. This extraordinary and vast river is embedded in the consciousness of the Chinese. It is much more than a waterway. It contains their history and their folklore. It runs in the blood of the people. This river caught my imagination and carried me on my journey.
My own feelings of rootlessness as an Israeli-born South African living in England evoked a strong response as I witnessed the vast scale of change under way in China. The west, and often the worst of it, is mirrored in China’s development and in that I saw a reflection of all mankind. The mistakes we have all made are being repeated. I realised that, for me, this project was about us all, about our interrelatedness, and not just about China.

A formalness and unease began to permeate my pictures after several trips to different parts of the river. I was responding to this country that feels both at the beginning of a new era and at odds with itself. I felt like a complete outsider and explained this pictorially by ‘stepping back’ – by showing humans as small in their surroundings. Common man has little say in China’s progression and this smallness of the individual is alluded to in the work. I found resonances in John Martin’s and Casper David Friedrich’s paintings, where humans are dwarfed against the might of nature and God, and J. M. W. Turner’s paintings, where tiny figures are lost in the seething violence of nature suggesting the ultimate defeat of all endeavour, the fallacy of hope. I felt the smallness of man pitted against huge ideas, the insignificance of man compared to the state.

Although it was never my intention to make documentary pictures, the sociological context of this project is ever present and unavoidable. The displacement of 1.7 million people in a 600-kilometre (380-mile) stretch of the river and the effect on humans when a country moves towards the future at unprecedented speed are themes that inevitably figure within the work.
China is a nation that appears to be severing its roots by destroying its past. Demolition and construction were everywhere on such a scale that I was unsure if what I was seeing was being built or destroyed, destroyed or built.
I felt strong parallels with the twentieth-century immigrants, who poured off the boats onto American soil for a new beginning without roots. And yet, paradoxically, the Chinese have traditionally had a deep identification with their native soil and an attachment to place. How can one be so rooted to the land and yet so ruthlessly redevelop or reinvent it?

China’s progress is rapid and profound. These are photographs that can never be taken again.

Yangtze, The Long River
Chongqing XI, Chongqing Municipality, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Chongqing II, Chongqing Municipality 2006
Yangtze, The Long River
Chongqing IV (Sunday Picnic), Chongqing Municipality, 2006
Yangtze, The Long River
Shanghai I, 2006
Yangtze, The Long River
Chongqing VII (Washing Bike), Chongqing Municipality, 2006
Yangtze, The Long River
Yibin II (Counting Receipts), Sichuan Province, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Chongqing I, Chongqing Municaplity, 2006
Yangtze, The Long River
Shanghai II, 2006
Yangtze, The Long River
Chongqing VI (Sunday Afternoon), Chongqing Municipality, 2006
Yangtze, The Long River
Chongqing XVI, (Sunday Morning) Chongqing Municipality, 2006
Yangtze, The Long River
Chongqing XVIII, Chongqing Municipality, 2006
Yangtze, The Long River
Old Fengdu II (Looking at New Fengdu), Chongqing Municipality, 2006
Yangtze, The Long River
Yibin II (Bathers), Sichuan Province, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Yibin I (Bathers), Sichuan Province, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Wu Gorge, Hubei Province, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Chongqing VIII, Chongqing Municipality, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Fengjie III (Monument to Progress and Prosperity), Chongqing Municipality, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Pudong I, Shanghai, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Chongqing III, Chongqing Municipality, 2006
Yangtze, The Long River
Changxing Island II, Shanghai, 2006
Yangtze, The Long River
Chongqing XV, Chongqing Municipality, 2006
Yangtze, The Long River
Old Fengdu III, Chongqing Municipality, 2006
Yangtze, The Long River
Yibin X, Sichuan Province, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Mouth I (Wusongkou - Where River Meets Sea), near Shanghai, 2006
Yangtze, The Long River
Nanjing V, Jiangsu Province, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Changxing Island I (Island of Oranges), Shanghai, 2006
Yangtze, The Long River
Mouth V, near Shanghai, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Mouth VI, near Shanghai, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Yibin VI, Sichuan Province, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Fuling I, Chongqing Municipality, 2006
Yangtze, The Long River
Yibin IV, Sichuan Province, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Wanzhou I, Chongqing Municipality, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Xiling Gorge I, Hubei Province, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Qiaotou (Tiger leaping town), Yunnan Province, 2006
Yangtze, The Long River
Shanghai V, 2006
Yangtze, The Long River
Yibin V, Sichuan Province, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Yibin III, Sichuan Province, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Nanjing II (Metal Palm), Jiangsu Province, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Mouth VII, near Shanghai, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Nanjing III (after Las Vegas), Jiangsu Province, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Three Gorges Dam II, Yichang, Hubei Province, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Three Gorges Dam VI, Yichang, Hubei Province, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Three Gorges Dam III, Yichang, Hubei Province, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Three Gorges Dam VII, Yichang Hubei Province, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Three Gorges Dam I (The State is Shattered, Mountains and Rivers remain), Yichang, Hubei Province, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Yibin VII, Sichuan Province, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Shigu II, Yunnan Province, 2006
Yangtze, The Long River
Nanjing IV, Jiangsu, Province, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Qinghai Province I, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Qingzang Railway, Qinghai Province, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Qinghai Province III, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Qinghai Province II, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Kekexili, Qinghai Province, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Yangtze Source VII (Between Heaven And Earth), Qinghai Province, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Shigu IV (Great First Bend), Yunnan Province, 2006
Yangtze, The Long River
Old Fengdu I (Realm of the Dead), Chongqing Municipality, 2006
Yangtze, The Long River
Chongqing XIV, Chongqing Municipality, 2006
Yangtze, The Long River
Shigu III (Great First Bend), Yunnan Province, 2006
Yangtze, The Long River
Nanjing I, Jiangsu Province, 2007
Yangtze, The Long River
Shanghai IV, 2006
31°23'37.0"N 121°58'59.0"E

Location: Yangtze River, China

Posted: June 2017
Category: Photography

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