Dragon Boat in the Three Gorges
2015, inkjet print on photo rag ultra smooth paper, available in 2 sizes
The Yellow River
For four years, Zhang Kechun travelled along the Yellow River on a fold-up bicycle. The silted waterway lead him from the coastal flats of Shandong, to the mountains of Qinghai. In his younger years, Zhang Kechun read about the mystical river; In his older years, he set forth to seek the source of the river.
Inspired by Zhang Chengzhi’s novel River of the North, Zhang Kechun decided to embark on a trip along the Yellow River to witness its fatherly broadness. He was determined to find his roots in this journey. “During my journey, the river in my mind was inundated by the stream of reality. The river, which was once so full of legends, was nowhere to be seen.” – Zhang Kechun
Zhang Kechun believes that man and nature will unite to conserve this river, and The Yellow River is the vessel of this belief. At the same time, The Yellow River revealed the materialistic drive that has taken hold of modern society. We are consuming more than ever, but would that bring us genuine happiness?
Nevertheless, the artist believes that for a vast country with a long history, the future is ultimately bright. “In this maternal body is a kind of lineage, a kind of nutriment, a kind of power of creation that brings lively and robust newborns to this world. Sickly moans will be drowned out by joyous exclamations. From this point of view, all shall look optimistic.” – Zhang Kechun
Between the Mountains and Water
Mountains and rivers have always harboured the sentiments of the Chinese people. The culture of enjoying nature on scenic tours, the self-cultivation teaching of ‘mountains as virtue, water as morals’, and the illusion of distance between the self and the horizon, have all been the major interpretations of mountains and waters.
My occupation has given me the opportunity to visit the mountains and waters, and to re-examine the current landscape of China. As a country in the midst of rapid development, newfound prosperity have left it consumed in excitement, followed by an unrelenting force of destruction. As an ordinary person, I feel insignificant in this environment. In the years of travelling through the country, I searched for the people who remained in the embrace of mountains and waters. In the shooting process, the position of the photographer and the subject was interchangeable; I would switch places with one of the people being photographed, and the one who has taken my place would press the shutter. I don’t think there is a feeling more intense and complicated as the one I felt when I became part of the scenery, even if just for a fleeting moment. I was endlessly grateful for the first encounters I had with historical treasures and heritages along the way, with a sense of uneasiness that looms behind, as I know they may no longer exist tomorrow.
– Zhang Kechun
In the 40 years that followed the Chinese economic reform, industrialisation and the country’s economy advanced at an alarming rate, at a speed that was never seen before in the past thousands of years. What happened simultaneously was the sacrifice of the natural environment, landscapes deteriorated, and sustainability became an immediate concern. This series is a collection of photographs taken during my travels around the country in the past decade, which is intended to be an ongoing project…
– Zhang Kechun
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Zhang was born in 1980 in Sichuan, China, and started painting when he was a child. He studied art and design and on graduating he worked as a designer in Chengdu before becoming interested in photography. Zhang is best known for his large format photographs of post-industrial Chinese landscapes. He produces epic vistas that dwell on the significance of the landscape in modern Chinese national identity.
Zhang won the Discovery Award at Les Rencontres d’Arles for The Yellow River in 2014. Working with the agency Most, Zhang also undertakes editorial and advertising commissions. He won the National Geographic Picks Global Photo Contest in 1998 and was shortlisted at the World Photography Awards in 2013. He has been exhibited at Photoquai, Paris; the Beijing Photo Biennale and the Delhi Photo Festival, India.