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Yangtze: The Long River
photographs and text by
The Yangtze River, which forms the premise to this body of work, is the main artery that flows 4,100 miles (6,500 km) across China, travelling 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 such an important role in both the spiritual and physical life of the people. More people live long its banks than live in the USA, one in every eighteen people on the planet.
Using the river as a metaphor for constant change, I have photographed the landscape and people along its banks from mouth to source.
I felt a complete outsider and explained this pictorially by “stepping back” and showing humans as small in their surroundings. Common man has little say in China’s progression and this smallness of the individual is alluded to in the work.
I feel that there are strong parallels in China with the 20th Century immigrants who poured off the boats onto American soil, a new beginning without roots.
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, as it obviously will do.
Although it was never my intention to make documentary pictures, the sociological context of this project is very important and ever present. The displacement of 3 million people in a 600 km stretch of the River and the effect on humans when a country moves towards the future at pace are themes that will inevitably be present within the work
A Chinese friend I made whilst working on the project reiterated what many Chinese people feel: “Why do we have to destroy to develop?” he explained that in Britain many of us can revisit where we were brought up and it will be much the same, it will remind us of our families and upbringing. In China that is virtually impossible, the scale of development has left most places unrecognisable, “Nothing is the same. We can’t revisit where we came from because it no longer exists.”
China is progressing rapidly, and to this end I feel there is a mirroring of the bad habits of “the West”. The landscape both economically and physically is changing daily. These are photographs that can never be taken again.
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