Yan Wang Preston : Mother River

Mother River is a breathtaking photographic odyssey by the British-Chinese photographer, Yan Wang Preston. It takes the viewer on a journey along the entire length of the Yangtze, China’s ‘Mother River’. From the remote high Tibetan Plateau, through the Three Gorges and on to the river’s end at Shanghai, this stunning series of colour photographs captures the dramatic shifts in landscape and offers fresh perspectives on China’s present-day development.

The epic project follows a simple premise: to document the entire 6,211km length of the Yangtze river from source to delta. Yan Wang Preston used Google Earth to identify the coordinates of sixty-three locations marking every 100 km of the river’s course. It was these sixty-three ‘Y-points’ that she set out to reach and to photograph, come what may.

Over a period of four years, the artist made nine field trips into incredibly diverse and often remote terrain. Since the river source is 5,400 meters above sea level, and half of its length flows through some of the most majestic mountains on Earth, Mother River is a modern-day adventure, where the intrepid photographer faced a panoply of hazards including altitude sickness, mudslides, earthquakes, sandstorms, floods and wild dogs.

Wang Preston used a large-format field camera, the kind used by nineteenth century pioneering explorers. Although cumbersome and complex to use on location, the camera produces huge negatives, offering images with astonishing detail and resolution.

For Chinese-born Wang Preston, Mother River is in part an epic pilgrimage through her native country: an exhaustive exploration of a powerful symbol that reconnects her with the ancestral homeland. Closely associated with Chinese traditional paintings and an icon of the national landscape, the Yangtze represents the folklore of traditional China. However, with over 30 hydroelectric dams on its course, the river is synonymous with China’s rapid industrialization. Wang Preston’s epic, multi-layered work raises questions about the relationship between nature and culture, tradition and regeneration in one of the world’s most powerful economies.

Saturday 28 January – Sunday 5 March 2017
Gallery of Photography, Dublin

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