I looked at the work of Nadav Kander and his project Yangtze – The Long River, who like myself, focused on photographing a river. Kander travelled down the Chinese river,Yangtze, photographing his journey down the river and his discovery. I wanted to research his work in detail as I feel it strongly links to my own project where I aim to document my journey down the River Sherbourne.
- The Yangtze River, which forms the basis of this body of work, is the main artery that flows 4,100 miles (6,500 km) across China, traveling from its furthest westerly point in Qinghai Province to Shanghai in the east. The river is embedded in the consciousness of the Chinese, even those who live thousands of miles from the river. It plays an essential role in both the spiritual and physical life of the people.
- Using the river as a metaphor for constant change, I have photographed the landscape and people along its banks from mouth to source.
- It is important for me to work intuitively and not be influenced by what I already know about the country. When I went to China, I wanted to respond to what I found and felt and seek out the iconography that allowed me to frame views that make the images unique to me.
- After several trips to different parts of the river, it became clear that what I personally was responding to and how I felt whilst being in China was permeating my pictures; a formalness and unease, a country that feels both at the beginning of a new era and at odds with itself.
- China is a nation that appears to be severing its roots by destroying its past in the wake of the sheer force of its moving forward at such an astounding and unnatural pace. I felt like a complete outsider and explained this pictorially by “stepping back” and showing humans as small in their surroundings.
- I chose to work in China because I wanted to try to discover how a country with such a turbulent recent history can conduct itself and play such a major role on a global scale. Although it was never my intention to make documentary pictures, the sociological context of this project is very important and ever-present.
I found it very interesting that Kander wanted to approach this project as though he didn’t know the country and so was approaching it for a first time; like in my own project, Kander wanted to discover the Chinese river for the ‘first time’. Kander allowed the river to shape his project depending on his discoveries, and I feel that in my own work I will do this, what I find along the river will effect my images.
- Traveling along the Yangtze River, he took serene pictures of people haplessly facing overwhelming change.
- In these pictures, the river—China’s main artery—becomes a metaphor of constant transformation. The tiny figure of a mother with a baby in her arms leans against a huge bridge piling, and one cannot help but wonder what the country will look like when this child is an adult. There are still traces of the old China, for whose spirituality the river was important, but the idyllic old buildings and houseboats have been replaced by colossal new apartment complexes that emulate Western architecture.
- As Kander himself says: “China is a nation that appears to be severing its roots by destroying its past in the wake of the sheer force of its moving ‘forward’ at such an astounding and unnatural pace. A people scarring their country, and a country scarring its people.”
This video shows the work of Nadav Kander:
Even though our final images are a lot different and the final message we are giving to our viewer is different, I still believe our projects link as we both aim to document the journey of the river as well as our own personal journey of discovery down the river. In my work I want to take influence from Kander and his work, by documenting as much of my journey as possible and showing my discovery; my images will not only document the path of the River Sherbourne through the city but also the surrounding area that I experience on my journey down the river.
As well as looking at the river, Kander shows the people and looks at the effects they have had on the surrounding area, and his images become a metaphor for the changes occurring in China. In my own work I want to look at man’s effect on the land capturing the change from the natural environment to the urban city.