Yangtze - The Long River

22 January - 12 March 2011

Galerie Camera Work
Kantstrasse 149
10623 Berlin

CAMERA WORK is pleased to exhibit Yangtze - The Long River by Nadav Kander and Pripyat and Chernobyl by Robert Polidori, certainly two of the most impressive series of recent photographic history. The photographs of both artists are striking reminders of the impact of mankind's intervention in its environment.

Nadav Kander’s Photo Series, awarded with the prestigious Prix Pictet in 2009, uniquely documents the rapid structural change along the Chinese Yangtze River. A current monograph, published by HATJE CANTZ, with a foreword by former UN Secretary General Kofi A. Annan, accompanies the exhibition. Robert Polidori, on the other hand, belongs to the first photographers who in 2001 had access to the restricted zone of the Ukrainian industrial city of Pripyat and the nearby nuclear power station Chernobyl, with the nuclear accident having its 25th anniversary on April 26th, 2011.

Polidori’s photographs impressively document the effects of the unquestionably biggest industrial disaster of the post-war period.
Nadav Kander’s photographs, lacking sunlight and bathed in white haze and fog, reflect the epochal change of China. The Yangtze River, the lifeline of China and the third longest river in the world, has become a symbol of the constant and inexorable change of the nation. The photographer, born in Israel in 1961, has been revisiting the river over the course of two years, from 2006 to 2007. Here, the photographer focuses on the drastic consequences of the economic boom on mankind. Gigantic bridges, underneath which people are having a leisurely picnic, colossal buildings of concrete accommodating thousands of people, or enormous hills of rubble and mud, where a woman is doing the dishes, are in stark contrast with the last traces of the original nature, which in most places has remained only barely visible. The result is a detailed picture of a country where tradition and modernity are in enormous conflict.

Fifteen years after the disastrous meltdown in the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Robert Polidori approached the place of horror with his large format camera in a quite objective and detached way in 2001. Polidori was one of the few chosen people who were even granted access to the control room of the exploded block IV. The photographer was allowed to enter the life-threatening room with a safety-suit and a gas mask on for only five minutes. Polidori offers the observer a dreadful view at a place, which today even seems extraterrestrial and where a fatal chain of human mistakes led to an incomparable catastrophe. Polidori’s photographs which were taken in the industrial city of Pripjat, impressively document that the inhabitants had to leave their lives behind immediately. Various lootings in the hazardous restricted area have now destroyed the original image, but the photographer was nonetheless able to find traces of social life. The crimson blackboard in a classroom, still bearing writing on it, gas masks ominously scattered on the ground, or the remains of an operating room are all ubiquitous evidence that gives the viewer an impression of the panic-stricken scenes which must have occurred at the time.