Nadav Kander made several voyages along the course of Chinas Yangtze River, travelling up-stream from mouth to source over a period of three years. Previously unseen photographs from the resulting body of work Yangtze - The Long River - went on display at Flowers
from 14 October 2010 to coincide with the publication of a monograph comprising the complete series.
Using the river as a metaphor for constant change Kander attempted at every stage of the journey, to relate and reflect the consequences of the incomprehensible and seemingly unnatural development in modern-day China.
The journey begins at the coastal estuary, where thousands of ships leave and enter each day, and moves past renowned suicide bridges, coal mines and the largest dam in the world The Three Gorges Dam. Further inland we encounter Chongqing - the fastest-growing urban centre on the planet.
Kander never photographed further than twenty miles from the river itself. In the shadow of epic construction projects we see workers, fishermen, swimmers and even a man washing his motorbike in the river. Dense architecture gives way to mountains in the upper reaches towards the rivers Tibetan source - a sparsely populated area where the stream is mostly broken ice and just ankle deep.
The river is embedded in the consciousness of the Chinese, even those separated from it by thousands of miles. It plays a pivotal role in both the spiritual and physical life of the nation. More people live along its banks than in the USA one in every eighteen people on the planet. Common man however, appears to have little say in Chinas progression and this smallness of the individual is alluded to in Kanders work.
The photographs are dominated by immense architectural structures where humans are shown as small in their environment. Figures are dwarfed by landscapes of half completed bridges and colossal Western-style apartment blocks that are rapidly replacing traditional Chinese low-rise buildings and houseboats.
Throughout the series, we can almost feel the weight of the humid air and haze of pollution, which Kander describes in muted tones occasionally enlivened by the smallest bright touches of clothing.
Kander responded intuitively to a feeling that China is severing its roots the resulting landscapes and documentary-inflected fictions weigh the human and environmental cost of Chinas often brutal, dehumanizing shift from state-controlled communism to state-sanctioned capitalism.
Nadav Kander said: The photographs are an emotional response to what I saw. I gave them simple titles so that viewers are encouraged to respond subjectively before seeking the facts
Kanders China is a country both at the beginning of a new era and at odds with itself, and one that inspired him to create works of sublime, soulful art.
The exhibition coincides with the publication of a comprehensive monograph introduced by Kofi A. Annan and published by Hatje Cantz. Kofi A. Annan presented Kander with the 2009 Prix Pictet photographic award in sustainability for a selection of photographs from Yangtze The Long River.
Nadav Kander is a regular contributor to many international publications, including The New York Times Magazine, for whom he recently documented Obamas People. Kander is a judge for the third Prix Pictet, to be awarded in 2011.
Photography has constituted a central part of the work exhibited at Flowers since its inception. Angela Flowers was an influential advocate of the medium during the Gallerys first decade and has gone on to represent a number of prominent photographers. 2010 marks the 40th anniversary of the gallery. Flowers will show a selection from Nadav Kanders Yangtze - The Long River at Paris Photo this November.