“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (29 days)