Life Along China’s Yellow River

The Photo Blog
July 8 2013 11:10 AM

Life Along China’s Yellow River

Henan province
Henan province

Zhang Kechun

As China continues to develop at rapid speed, at least one Chinese photographer is doing his best to slow the moment down.

A native of Chengdu, China, Zhang Kechun first came to the Yellow River in 2008. He wrote via email he wanted “to take a walk along” it and immediately began to do preparation for the series titled “The Yellow River.”

Over a two-year period, Zhang took images of life along the river that has been plagued with flooding, pollution, and destruction caused by China’s push to modernize.

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Zhang choose to create images that are overcast with “a gloomy sky” to contrast the landscape with the people and structures in the frame, which lends a cinematic feel to them. His photographs have been widely seen around the world, something he said “makes me very surprised, thanks to the Internet.”

Ningxia province
Ningxia province

Zhang Kechun

7
Shaanxi province

Zhang Kechun

Ningxia province.
Ningxia province

Zhang Kechun

Zhang initially studied design in school, but after taking a photography class, he became interested in pursuing the medium. A few years after graduating, he bought a camera and starting taking pictures.

The images included in “The Yellow River” were shot with a large-format film camera, which is slower and more time-consuming than working with a digital camera.

Zhang wrote about why he decided to pursue the project:

It is a river! No matter if it meanders or goes forward straight; if it’s swelling or dry; if it flows rapidly or slowly; if it’s lively or tranquil; if it’s majestic or elegant; if it’s simple or magnificent; if it possesses brightness or dark; if it’s colorful or gloomy; if it’s only an imagination and reality, it always embraces people’s life and fate, joy and sorrow, faith and hesitance.

Ningxia province
Ningxia province

Zhang Kechun

6
Gansu province

Zhang Kechun

8
Shaanxi province

Zhang Kechun

9
Shanxi province

Zhang Kechun

Shandong province
Shandong province

Zhang Kechun

David Rosenberg is the editor of Slate’s Behold blog. He has worked as a photo editor for 15 years and is a tennis junkie. Follow him on Twitter.