Stockland Martel goes to London for Nadav Kander’s exhibition opening at Flowers gallery (photos)

Nadav Kander, "Yibin IV, Sichuan Province," 2007. Chromogenic color print. Courtesy Flowers, London.

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Last Thursday, “Yangtze—The Long River,” an exhibition featuring previously unseen photographs from Nadav Kander’s Prix Pictet–winning series, opened at Flowers gallery in London. The show, which will be on view through November 13, coincides with the publication of a comprehensive monograph issued by German book publisher Hatje Cantz. Tomorrow, Flowers will be hosting a conversation between Nadav and Philip Dodd from 7 to 9 pm. For details, visit flowersgalleries.com.

Here’s an excerpt from a review by the British culture site Spoonfed:

“When we arrive at Flowers on Kingsland Road, the place is heaving, as crowds admire Nadav Kander’s mesmerising photographs taken along the course of China’s Yangtze River. Yangtze – The Long River captures the constant urbanisation of life in modern day China. Kander’s images are magnificent; the extraordinary tonal differences between the muted, dense greys and misty bands of thick fog contrast with the fleshy tones of the people which populate them, the bright touches and hues of their clothing pops against the translucent veil of pollution.”

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Nadav (far right) with gallery owner Matthew Flowers (center) on opening night.

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Bill, Maureen, and Stockland Martel photo editor Katya Arsenieva flew to London to attend the opening and to spend time with Nadav, who is fresh off of his epic fund-raising, glutes-testing bike ride to raise funds for two British hospitals (see Nadav Kander’s Bicycle Diaries). Here are a couple of photos they took in his studio, which is in the Kentish Town/Camden area of London…

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Nadav and Maureen review images at Nadav's studio. At left is Felicity McCabe, Nadav's first assistant. Bill is way in the back at the computer, no doubt trying to winnow down the contents of his inbox.

From left: Maureen, Katya, Nadav, Zoe Tomlinson, Nadav's studio manager, and Bill.

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While they were across the pond, Bill, Maureen, and Katya visited several other

Europe-based Stockland Martel photographers, including Jason Hindley…

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Jason Hindley and his wife (and ace studio manager) Keiko at breakfast with Bill and Maureen.

 

A photo that Keiko took of Bill at the Islington outpost of the famed Ottolenghi restaurant.

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…and Michael Wirth…

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Maureen and Michael Wirth at Ukai Sushi.

Maureen and Bill dining at one of Bill's favorite vegetarian restaurants, near Nadav's studio.

Bill, Katya, and Maureen.

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Bill and Maureen value these opportunities to spend time with the SM photographers who are outside of New York. It’s sort of like visiting with a family member who lives far away—you don’t get to do it as often as you like, but it’s always a fun and special time when you do get together.

Plus, we’re all very proud of Nadav. If you’re not familiar with his “Yangtze” series, here’s some excellent background on it taken from the exhibition’s press release:

 

Nadav Kander made several voyages along the course of China’s Yangtze River, travelling up-stream from mouth to source over a period of three years. Previously unseen photographs from the resulting body of work – ‘Yangtze – The Long River’ – go on display at Flowers from 14 October 2010 to coincide with the publication of a monograph comprising the complete series.

Using the river as a metaphor for constant change Kander attempted at every stage of the journey, to relate and reflect the consequences of the incomprehensible and seemingly unnatural development in modern-day China.

The journey begins at the coastal estuary, where thousands of ships leave and enter each day, and moves past renowned suicide bridges, coal mines and the largest dam in the world – The Three Gorges Dam. Further inland we encounter Chongqing – the fastest-growing urban centre on the planet.

Kander never photographed further than twenty miles from the river itself. In the shadow of epic construction projects we see workers, fishermen, swimmers and even a man washing his motorbike in the river. Dense architecture gives way to mountains in the upper reaches towards the river’s Tibetan source – a sparsely populated area where the stream is mostly broken ice and just ankle deep.

The river is embedded in the consciousness of the Chinese, even those separated from it by thousands of miles. It plays a pivotal role in both the spiritual and physical life of the nation. More people live along its banks than in the USA – one in every eighteen people on the planet. Common man however, appears to have little say in China’s progression and this smallness of the individual is alluded to in Kander’s work.

The photographs are dominated by immense architectural structures where humans are shown as small in their environment. Figures are dwarfed by landscapes of half completed bridges and colossal Western-style apartment blocks that are rapidly replacing traditional Chinese low-rise buildings and houseboats.

Throughout the series, we can almost feel the weight of the humid air and haze of pollution, which Kander describes in muted tones occasionally enlivened by the smallest bright touches of clothing.

Kander responded intuitively to a feeling that China is severing its roots – the resulting landscapes and documentary-inflected fictions weigh the human and environmental cost of China’s often brutal, dehumanizing shift from state-controlled communism to state-sanctioned capitalism.

Nadav Kander said: “The photographs are an emotional response to what I saw. I gave them simple titles so that viewers are encouraged to respond subjectively before seeking the facts.”

Kander’s China is a country both at the beginning of a new era and at odds with itself, and one that inspired him to create works of sublime, soulful art.

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Related:

Previously Unseen Images by Photographer Nadav Kander on View at Flowers

“The Yangtze: Rapids Ahead,” a feature by Jonathan Watts, the Guardian’s Asia correspondent, published in the Weekend magazine

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