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By Yan Wang Preston
$19,620
pledged of $19,896 goal
backers

All or nothing. This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by .

About

Mother River 

“A work of genius and an eye-opening experience. ” ------ Zelda Cheatle

Concept - The Y Points System

Mother River is an ambitious and highly original four-year project (2010-2014) for which the British-Chinese artist Yan Wang Preston photographed the entire 6,211km length of the Yangtze River at precise 100km intervals. Yan used a large-format film camera for her epic project, overcoming a number of different physical, logistical, emotional and artistic challenges to produce a fascinating and unique body of work.

The Y Points System shooting plan, showing 63 equally spaced photo locations on the Yangtze: Y1-Y63.
The Y Points System shooting plan, showing 63 equally spaced photo locations on the Yangtze: Y1-Y63.

As China’s ‘Mother River’, the Yangtze is usually celebrated through idealistic images of iconic places along its length. With Mother River, I wanted to conceptually disrupt the deep-seated conventional preference towards popular locations and their landscape representations. By deliberately committing to pre-determined photographic locations equally spread out every 100KM, the work I produced features no picturesque views or sublime concrete structures. Instead, it is a collection of random, vernacular and sometimes intriguingly mundane landscapes that have never – or only very rarely – been photographed before. The Mother River book tells an epic story of the entire width of China, from its western highland to its eastern coast. It demonstrates that in an era of abundant satellite mapping and often clichéd imagery, we can still discover fresh, authentic and sometimes surprising views through ambitious physical and personal mapping.

Y2 100km from the river source. From Mother River series (2010-2014), ©Yan Wang Preston
Y2 100km from the river source. From Mother River series (2010-2014), ©Yan Wang Preston
Y25 2,400km from the river source. From Mother River series (2010-2014), ©Yan Wang Preston.
Y25 2,400km from the river source. From Mother River series (2010-2014), ©Yan Wang Preston.
Y32 3,100km from the river source. From Mother River series (2010-2014), ©Yan Wang Preston.
Y32 3,100km from the river source. From Mother River series (2010-2014), ©Yan Wang Preston.
Y60 5,900km from the river source. From Mother River series (2010-2014), ©Yan Wang Preston.
Y60 5,900km from the river source. From Mother River series (2010-2014), ©Yan Wang Preston.

The process: physical, unpredictable and not without risk

My journey began at 5,400m above sea level in the uninhabited zone known as the Tibetan Plateau. From here, the Yangtze River flows through majestic mountains with almost no access at all, before hitting the industrial lowland near Shanghai. Inhospitable terrain and huge distances made this project a modern-day adventure, with many potential hazards including high-altitude sickness, off-road driving, floods, sandstorms, earthquakes, landslides and mudslides. I had to deal with intense physical, intellectual and emotional challenges across wide-ranging terrains, often extreme. Not surprisingly, the process of realising the Mother River project wasn’t without incident. Two locations (Y15 & Y16) remain unreached to this day, while twenty-four locations (Y39 - Y62) were originally depicted in poorly exposed images, because I loaded the films back-to-front by mistake. (I decided to re-shoot afterwards). It is precisely these imperfections that testify to the physicality of this highly conceptual project, and which also give it a particularly ‘human’ touch.

Waiting for the light at Y4. 5 Nov 2013. ©Yan Wang Preston
Waiting for the light at Y4. 5 Nov 2013. ©Yan Wang Preston
Dealing with high-altitude sickness before going to find Y5. 6 Nov 2013. ©Yan Wang Preston
Dealing with high-altitude sickness before going to find Y5. 6 Nov 2013. ©Yan Wang Preston
13 March 2013. One of the 76 Beds that I slept on during Mother River journeys. ©Yan Wang Preston
13 March 2013. One of the 76 Beds that I slept on during Mother River journeys. ©Yan Wang Preston
   
Y41 4,000km from the river source. A 'wrong' picture resulted from Yan loading the films back-to-front by mistake. From Mother River series (2010-2014), ©Yan Wang Preston.
Y41 4,000km from the river source. A 'wrong' picture resulted from Yan loading the films back-to-front by mistake. From Mother River series (2010-2014), ©Yan Wang Preston.

Project Recognitions:

Mother River has already been shown at seven solo exhibitions in prestigious international venues, including the 56th Venice Biennale, China Three Gorges Museum, Wuhan Art Museum, The Swatch Art Peace Hotel, Lianzhou Fotofestival, Gallery of Photography Ireland and Impressions Gallery. It won the Shiseido Photography Prize (Beijing, 2016) as well as Reviewers Choice Award, Clifton Camera Award and Genesis Imaging Award at FORMAT (Derby, 2014). It was nominated for Prix Pictet Award twice (2016 & 2017) and The Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize (2018). It has been featured in many TV, radio, newspaper and online journals.

With your help, the ultimate legacy for Mother River will be the stunning, collectable photobook that I’m hoping to produce.

Mother River exhibition at The Swatch Art Peace Hotel, Shanghai, China, 2015. ©Yan Wang Preston
Mother River exhibition at The Swatch Art Peace Hotel, Shanghai, China, 2015. ©Yan Wang Preston
Mother River exhibition at Chongqing China Three Gorges Museum, Chongqing, China, 2015. ©Yan Wang Preston
Mother River exhibition at Chongqing China Three Gorges Museum, Chongqing, China, 2015. ©Yan Wang Preston
Mother River exhibition at Impressions Gallery, Bradford, UK, 2017. ©Yan Wang Preston
Mother River exhibition at Impressions Gallery, Bradford, UK, 2017. ©Yan Wang Preston

Further reading: 

Artsy: These Revealing Images Capture the Plight of China’s Environment 

Lensculture : Video Interview: Mother River: 6,200 Kilometers From Source to Mouth of the Yangtze 

CNN: Capturing the majesty of the Yangtze River, 100 km at a time 

Irish Times: ‘Mother River’: photographs of life along China’s Yangtze 

WPO: Yan Preston's Mother River

The Mother River photobook:

The book will be published by the renowned German publisher Hatje Cantz and designed by the award-winning designer, Julia Wagner. It includes a Y Points System map and all Mother River images, as well as mapping and shooting information. It contains a preface by the widely-respected landscape photographer, Jem Southam, and two in-depth essays by the Professor of Photographic Culture Liz Wells, Plymouth University, and Dr Michael Pritchard, CEO of Royal Photographic Society respectively. A detailed diary entry of Y16 by Yan Wang Preston is also included.

To reflect the epic character of the Mother River project, the book we are planning to produce will be large, with a beautiful and timeless design, produced and printed to the highest quality.

Specs: 

Hardcover, flat spine 

33cm by 27.5cm (landscape format) 

62 colour plates, 160 pages 

LuxoArt Smart Paper, 170 g/m2 

1,500 print run. 

Release date: October 2018

Y57 5,600km from the river source. From Mother River series (2010-2014), ©Yan Wang Preston.
Y57 5,600km from the river source. From Mother River series (2010-2014), ©Yan Wang Preston.

Why do I need your support?

For its scale, ambition and inherent riskiness, Mother River has always been a difficult and costly project. To complete the shooting, I had to commit all of my available resources: there was no scope for compromise and no guarantee that the project would succeed. Now, at last, it is finally time to produce the book that I had always imagined would be the natural home of Mother River. Again, I would like to produce the very best book possible: a book without compromise to match a project without compromise, and one whose quality will do justice to the many years of work which went into its making. Of course, making a book like this requires financial backing well beyond my own means. I have invested all of my own personal savings to cover printing, binding, design and essays. However, a shortfall of about £15,000 remains. I am confident that with our collective effort, a beautiful book could soon be a reality.

Y63 6,200km from the river source. The Yangtze river mouth. From Mother River series (2010-2014), ©Yan Wang Preston.
Y63 6,200km from the river source. The Yangtze river mouth. From Mother River series (2010-2014), ©Yan Wang Preston.

If you are interested in the book and the story of Mother River, this campaign would be a perfect opportunity to support the project by pre-ordering the book or buying one of the various package offers. I would also be extremely grateful if you could help spread the word about this campaign with your family, friends and colleagues.

Thank you very much for your support.

The rewards:

First of all, my heartfelt thanks go to all my backers and supporters.

The rewards of this Kickstarter campaign are carefully designed to extend the Mother River journey to you. Supporters are invited to taste the essence of Mother River, with its punishing Y Points System shooting method. Physicality and uncertainty are reflected in the Beds postcard book and in the ‘wrong’ pictures. The Beds postcard book will be presented in a ‘low-fi’ box handmade by me. Meanwhile, just as I needed to face each pre-determined Y Point, pledgers will need to have faith in the ‘wrong’ pictures and buy them before seeing them. Don’t worry: I will, of course, try my hardest to print them with the best possible quality from the darkroom. (But they remain as the perfect ‘imperfect’ picture, with ‘wrong’ exposures, strange colours, dusts and scratches all visible on the print surface.)

Meanwhile, for those serious explorers, the two-day masterclass will be a perfect opportunity to experience this unique way of making photographic projects.

For print lovers, please feel free to choose any images of Mother River on www.yanwangpreston.com. If you would like to have a print from another series, please email me at yanpreston@icloud.com.

Risks and challenges

To build on the success of my first monograph 'Forest' (released this May), I will continue to work with Hatje Cantz and the designer, Julia Wagner. The Mother River project has now been successfully completed and its images carefully colour edited, and the book is currently being designed. Each partner in the project has extensive knowledge when it comes to creating the highest quality photo books, and I am confident that the finished result will be stunning. I very much look forward to a successful campaign, and the creation of a book that I am sure you will enjoy for many years to come.

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  1. Make a pledge without a reward

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    Pledge £8 or more About $11

    Oversized postcard

    Oversized postcard with the image of ‘Waiting for the light at Y4’ (see story section).

    Signed on the reverse with a personalised thank-you message.

    127mm x 177.8mm.

    Printed on 350gsm paper.

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    Pledge £55 or more About $73

    Signed copy of Mother River book.

    One signed copy of Mother River book.

    Pledge for £90 if you would like to have my recently released 'Forest' book too. See details on http://www.yanwangpreston.com/projects/forest-images.

    Delivered to you at the same time as the book launch.

    Post: Royal Mail Tracked and Signed.

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    Pledge £126 or more About $167

    Mother River book + a postcard book.

    In addition to the beautiful Mother River book:

    A set of 76 postcards in a 'low-fi' box handmade by me, featuring all 76 of the beds that I slept on during the Mother River journeys.

    Priced at £76 each set.

    Only 76 sets will be made. Each set is unique and numbered.

    75 postcards will be sent to you together. The last card will have a hand-written message from me and be mailed to you separately as a postcard. I will choose a different card to write on for each collector.

    See details on http://www.yanwangpreston.com/beds

    Digital print, A6 size, 350gsm paper.

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    Pledge £290 or more About $385

    Mother River book+Handmade 'Wrong' Print

    In addition to the beautiful Mother River book:

    One 25cm x 31cm hand-printed colour photograph for each of the 24 Y Points (Y39-Y62) for which I loaded the films back-to-front by mistake. See Story section for an example of Y41.

    Printed on 30cm x 40cm Fuji Crystal Archive Paper.

    Print is priced at £240 each for Kickstarter only.

    Each print is from an edition size of 3 + 1AP.

    ‘Blind buy’ on a first-come, first -served basis. The first buyer gets Y39, the second gets Y40, and so on.

    All prints and books are signed.

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    Pledge £350 or more About $464

    Mother River book + two-day masterclass

    In addition to the beautiful Mother River book:

    
A two-day masterclass for a mini Points System on one of the beautiful (and very interesting) Hebden Bridge rivers.

    Program includes:
    Choosing and dividing a river on Google Earth;
    Locating and photographing one location;
    Image editing;
    Making a dummy book.

    Only 5 places available.

    Price only includes tuition fee and does not include travel, equipment, accommodation or food.

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    Pledge £680 or more About $902

    Mother River book + one 40*50cm print

    In addition to the beautiful Mother River book:

    A 40cm x 50cm C-type archival print from any of the Mother River images in the book except Y41 and Y42.

    Numbered prints up to 5 +1AP.

    No 1 of all Mother River numbered prints at this size have been collected by Wuhan Art Museum, China. Your collection starts from No 2.

    The image will be printed on 50.8 x 60.96cm Fuji Crystal Archival Paper by a leading UK lab.

    Size can be adjusted slightly to suit your need.

    Special print price of £630, only available for the Kickstarter campaign.

    Choose images on http://www.yanwangpreston.com/projects/images.

    Signed and numbered.

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  8. Select this reward

    Pledge £1,050 or more About $1,393

    Mother River book + two 40*50cm prints

    In addition to the beautiful Mother River book:

    Two 40cm x 50cm C-type archival prints from any of the Mother River images in the book except Y41 and Y42.

    Numbered prints up to 5 +1AP.

    No 1 of all Mother River numbered prints at this size have been collected by Wuhan Art Museum, China. Your collection starts from No 2.

    The image will be printed on 50.8 x 60.96cm Fuji Crystal Archival Paper by a leading UK lab.

    Size can be adjusted slightly to suit your need.

    Special print price of £500 each only available for this offer.

    Choose images on http://www.yanwangpreston.com/projects/images

    Signed and numbered.

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  9. Select this reward

    Pledge £2,000 or more About $2,653

    Sponsor's package 20 books.

    As well as receiving the books, you will have your name or logo printed in the book as a sponsor.

    All books are signed if requested.

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    Pledge £2,895 or more About $3,840

    Mother River book + one 112*140cm print

    In addition to the beautiful Mother River book:

    A 112cm x 140cm C-type archival print from any of the Mother River images in the book except Y41 and Y42.

    Numbered prints up to 3+1AP.

    Size can be adjusted slightly to suit your need.

    The image will be printed on 120cm x 150cm Fuji Crystal Archival Paper by a leading UK lab.

    Print priced at £2,845 specially for the Kickstarter campaign.

    Choose images on http://www.yanwangpreston.com/projects/images.

    Signed and numbered.

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    Pledge £1 or more About $1.33

    Yangtze River stones.

    On the 1st December 2011 I made a circle of 127 Yangtze River stones in Chongqing, China.

    I held each stone in my hands for 10 seconds, as a way to connect with the river.

    Each stone is transported and shaped by the river. It is the manifestation of the gentle and persistent power of water.

    A Yangtze stone is priceless. Pay what you think is suitable.

    The stone will come to you in a small gift box with its geological information.

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    Pledge £45 or more About $60

    Early-bird Mother River book. Signed.

    One signed copy of Mother River book.

    Pledge for £80 if you would like to have my recently released 'Forest' book too. See details on http://www.yanwangpreston.com/projects/forest-images.

    Delivered to you at the same time as the book launch.

    Post: Royal Mail Tracked and Signed.

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    Reward no longer available 30 backers
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