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Nadav Kander

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I often hear of negative impressions of life in China. Many people not only bad-mouth China’s current and past political landscape, but ridicule contemporary Chinese art, business practices, and indeed, mentality! A lot of these impressions are based on hearsay and so-called “documentaries” seemingly peppered with personal vendetta; these people have never actually stepped foot on China’s soil before, much less lived there. Isn’t the point of a documentary to be utterly on-the-fence? It is journalism - it is only fair that the viewer forms his/her own conclusions and opinions. But it is encouraging that there are people out there who still understand the role of a documentary - people like Nadav Kander - people who actually go to China and try to understand the people there and their lives. And most importantly, he understands that he is an outsider looking in, and offers little opinions of his own:

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The Yangtze River, which forms the premise to this body of work, is the main artery that flows 4100miles (6500km) 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 for those who live thousands of miles from the river. It plays a significant role in both the spiritual and physical life of the people. More people live along its banks than live in the USA - one in every eighteen people on the planet.

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After several trips to different parts of the river, it became clear that what I was responding to and how I felt whilst being in china was permeating into 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. A people scarring their country and a country scarring its people.

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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 600km stretch of the River and the effect on humanity when a country moves towards the future at pace are themes that will inevitably be present within the work. A Chinese man who I became friends with whilst working on the project reiterated what many Chinese people feel: “ Why do we have to destroy to develop?” He explained how in Britain many of us could revisit the place of our childhood, knowing that 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.”

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China’s landscape both economically and physically is changing daily. These are photographs that can never be taken again.

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