“China’s progress is rapid and profound. These are photographs that can never be taken again.”
Nadav Kander (Tel Aviv, 1961) is a London based photographer and director. He was born in Israel, grew up in South-Africa and moved to England in 1982 to begin his career. He’s the winner of the Prix Pictet Earth in 2009 and he exhibited in the most relevant museums and galleries of the world. Kander regularly contributes with many international publications, including the New York Times Magazine.
Best known for his works in portraiture, he’s also skilled in documentary photography: a gentle storyteller working with images. Kander is interested in photograph that slowly represents the genius loci of a place.
“Yangtze, The Long River” (2006-2007) relates all of this and much more.
The project is developed along the Yangtze, China’s artery, that flows over 6.500 kilometres from the Qinghai province to Shanghai. In Chinese culture it represents the border between West and East, and it’s also fundamental for the economy: the territories of the delta river generate 20% of gross domestic product of the whole country. However, the environmental exploitation also creates negative effects: in recent years the depletion of resources produced serious damages.
The Yangtze is the most polluted area in the Pacific Ocean, and the overbuilding of its riverbed is one of the major problems for the ecosystem.
In his two-years journey Kander travels the river against the current and photographs the life that is part of it.
He not only describes the third longest waterway in the world, but wants to give us a deeper insight view of the people who inhabit those places touched by its passage. The East is growing in a very fast pace and the consequences of this advance are inexorably reflected on the inhabitants.
Along the river life is like a resistance to concrete and the people on the banks become a symbol of this coexistence between natural and artificial. Around them, buildings that surround and observe.
It’s the story of a contrast between the smallness of the human being compared to the majesty of the environment. Tiny, we see families, workers, fishermen at the base of huge architecture under construction or abandoned.
The Yangtze becomes a symbol of union between people linked by the same culture, an union that creates roots: those roots that Nadav Kander never had growing up in three different countries. His need to discover this connections creates so powerful images not limited to China territory, but enlarged to the progress of the entire world and our impact to the natural environment.
It seems like all our mistakes as human beings are summed up in those images.
The artist’s work is not only descriptive, but it’s an authorial process that involves the viewer in the interpretation of meaning. The inhaled air by people in the photos becomes air that we also breathe, humid and dense of pollution that Kander represents with soft tones.
“Yangtze, The Long River” is the paradox of human life flowing inside an inhuman place.