Just over a week ago Nadav Kander was named as winner of the excellent 2009Â Prix Pictet, the prize given to photography on the theme of environmental sustainability. Last yearâ€™sÂ shortlist, which included Benoit Aquin, Edward Burtynsky, David Maisel and others, produced a really astonishing collection of images on the theme of Water; it showed how powerful photography can still be when it inhabits the zone between art and documentary.
This year the theme,Â Earth, produced equally sock-knocking results; Britainâ€™s Nadav Kander was up against Darren Almond, Edward Burtynsky (again) andÂ Andreas Gursky and others. Iâ€™ve blogged about theÂ brilliant shortlist previously.
Maybe because theyâ€™re part documentarists, thereâ€™s something very pithy about photographerâ€™s artistsâ€™ statements that I really like. Hereâ€™s part of Kanderâ€™s artistsâ€™ statement about the whole Yangtze,Â The Long River project:
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.
Using the river as a metaphor for constant change, I have photographed the landscape and people along its banks from mouth to source.
Importantly for me I worked intuitively, trying not to be influenced by what I already knew about the country. I wanted to respond to what I found and felt and to seek out the iconography that allowed me to frame views that make the images unique to me.
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 â€œforwardâ€ at such an astounding and unnatural pace. A people scarring their country and a country scarring its peopleâ€¦
Go to RSA Arts & Ecology