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Dynamic exhibition on China brings together six contemporary photographers at Michigan State University
The exhibit, which debuted in late January and runs through August 2015, presents a blend of photographic styles interwoven in a dynamic timeline of environmental and social changes in modern China.

EAST LANSING, MICH.- “Seeing China: Photographic Views and Viewpoints” features photographs by non-Chinese photographers Steven Benson, Luis Delgado, Laurie Lambrecht, Fredrik Marsh, Philipp Scholz Rittermann and Brad Temkin and early twentieth-century stereographs from the Michigan State University Museum’s collection.

The exhibit, which debuted in late January and runs through August 2015, presents a blend of photographic styles interwoven in a dynamic timeline of environmental and social changes in modern China. The effects of major water projects such as the Three Gorges Dam, promoted and implemented by the Chinese government, affected people around the country—cities and rural villages were demolished, ancient burial grounds destroyed. Each photographer unveils a different aspect of the story about China’s struggles with modernization and industrialization.

Benson’s classic black-and-white photographs document his 1999 travels in the Yangtze River Valley and were first published in his book, The Cost of Power in China: The Three Gorges Dam and the Yangtze River Valley. “If you spend time with my photographs there is a sense of loss, mourning and sadness. There was a sense that everything I was looking at was going to disappear soon, and I was very, very aware of that,” Benson says.

Through Benson’s eyes, we see rural villages and bustling cities that are now 50 feet under water. We meet anglers on the banks of toxic tributaries and dam construction site workers.

In another area of the country, Rittermann photographed 1,000 miles between Beijing and Hangzhou along the Emperor’s River, China’s Grand Canal, capturing what he says is “missing from the news.” His vibrant color images were created with overlapping exposures, illuminating breathtaking details—from a lumber barge passing under a weathered stone bridge, to ports pulsing with traders. He describes his photographs as “a breathtaking, fast-paced collision of antiquity and modernity, the newly rich versus the long-suffering poor.”

Color photographs from Marsh’s “To Those Who Come After” characterize deserted and overlooked areas in rapidly disappearing old Guangzhou as it is transformed by a rapidly rising city.

In contrast, Lambrecht and Temkin contribute pieces associated with traditional China: Lambrecht’s diptychs depict delicately blossoming trees in the Imperial Garden while Temkin’s photographs present the Great Wall engulfed in fog. Luis Delgado’s whimsical artist book, Cuentos Chinos Attributed to Dr. Achoo, shows the interplay between the “ancient and the gadget-driven eras.”

Seeing China is presented as part of a thematic year at Michigan State, The China Experience: An MSU Exploration of Arts & Culture. It is sponsored by the MSU Museum, Asian Studies Center, Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives, Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, School of Journalism, History Department, Honors College, Global Studies in the Arts and Humanities, Our Daily Work/Our Daily Lives and the MSU Library.

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