Exhibition: Nadav Kander’s Yangtze – The Long River

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Yangtze, The Long River – Flowers Gallery NYC October 2012

Art Director Stephanie Cabrera finds herself immersed in the world of tradition and transformation portrayed in Nadav Kander’s show Yangtze – The Long River

“With film you tend to stay nervous longer and never be sure what you have and maybe try things that you would never try.”

Nadav Kander

Who?

Yangtze, The Long River – Flowers Gallery NYC October 2012

Born in Tel Aviv, Israel in 1961, Nadav Kander currently lives and works in London. His work forms part of some of the major collections in the world. In 2009, Kander received the prestigious Prix Pictet photographic award for a selection of photographs from his series Yangtze – The Long River.

“I think at about 11 years old or 12 years old I started taking pictures and found that I was quite good at them and I think it was probably the only thing that I felt good about.” Nadav Kander

What?

Nadav Kander, Chongqing IV, Sunday Picnic. Yangtze, The Long River – Flowers Gallery NYC October 2012

Photographer Nadav Kander travelled the nearly 4,000-mile long Yangtze River, from mouth to source, photographing the landscape and the people living along its shores. Yangtze — The Long River is a body of work that captures the dramatic effects of a nation at the precipice of enormous industrial and economic change and considers the history and folklore of the waterway that runs through the blood of the people.

“More people live along the Yangtze’s banks than in the whole of the United States, that is one in every eighteen people on the planet. […] This extraordinary and vast river is embedded in the consciousness of the Chinese. It is much more than a waterway. It contains their history and their folklore. It runs in the blood of the people.” Nadav Kander

Decisive Moment?

Yangtze, The Long River – Flowers Gallery NYC October 2012

“After several trips to different parts of the river, it became clear that what I personally was responding to and how I felt whilst being in China was permeating my pictures; a formalness and unease, a country that feels both at the beginning of a new era and at odds with itself. China is a nation that appears to be severing its roots by destroying its past in the wake of the sheer force of its moving forward at such an astounding and unnatural pace.” Nadav Kander

Trend?

Nadav Kander, Chongqing XI, Chongqing Municipality. Yangtze, The Long River – Flowers Gallery NYC October 2012

Change.

This series seems to be about our rapidly changing planet and our disquieting role in the process. Kander comments that China seems to be severing its roots with its past. Through the lens, he captures demolition and construction everywhere, and this made him unsure whether what he was observing was being built or destroyed.

“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.” Nadav Kander

Which Image?

Nadav Kander, Yibin I, Bathers. Yangtze, The Long River – Flowers Gallery NYC October 2012

In front of Kander’s Bathers, Yibin, I found myself suddenly unable to move, completely immersed in the scene. This often happens, when for a few seconds, something ‘takes our breath away’ – a person, a song, or in this case, the photograph – capturing us with its beauty, its story and its sadness.

This image speaks to the conflicting juxtaposition of tradition and transformation in China. These bathers, half nude, exposed, are huddled together on this swooping rock into the grey abyss, one holding the only spec of color in the shot: a life preserver, while a smokestack spewing industrialization looms in the background.

This is the kind of shot that makes me love photography.

One question for the Image Maker

Nadav Kander, Chongqing I, Chongqing Municipality. Yangtze – Long River – Flowers Gallery NYC October 2012

You are the type of artist who creates dangerously, who isn’t afraid to do something completely different and unpopular, yet comes out of it unscathed and incredibly successful in both the fine art and commercial realms. Your work regularly blurs the line between art and commerce, and beautifully preserves its integrity. How do you approach that ‘line’, and what advice would you give young photographers about delving into the commercial world while developing their photographic eye?

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