British-Chinese photographer Yan Wang Preston documented the full 6,211 km of the Yangtze River, describing the process as "four years of blood, sweat and tears."
Yan began the project as a way to reconnect with her homeland after moving to the UK in 2005. She was interested in the ways in which the Yangtze is perceived and portrayed in China and the West.
Mother River project follows a strict ‘Y Points System’: to photograph one of China’s Mother Rivers, the Yangtze, with a precise interval of every 100 kilometres on a large-format film camera. Measured at 6,211 kilometres long, the river provides 63 photographic locations for the single-minded artist-explorer.
Completed between 2010 and 2014, the project has received multiple awards, including the Reviewer’ Choice Award at Format International Portfolio Review in Derby (2014) and the Shiseido Photographer Prize at the Three Shadows Photography Award in Beijing in April 2016. Solo exhibitions of Mother River have been staged at the 56th Venice Biennale as well as museums in China such as the Chongqing China Three Gorges Museum and Wuhan Art Museum.
The renowned British curator Zelda Cheatle comments on Mother River:
Yan Preston’s pictures of the Yangtze River will stop you in your tracks. This is a photographic odyssey that is remarkable for the pictures and remarkable as a story. This young and fearless woman set off to make a pictorial record of the entire Mother River, stopping every 100km to take a picture on her large plate camera. The result is an astonishing look at the whole inner life of China, composed and shot with great skill and ingenuity in often the most adverse conditions. Three and a half years later, this wondrous series of pictures is being made into an exhibition that will thrill and enthrall and educate.
A work of genius and an eye-opening experience.