Zhang Kechun

The Yellow River

Zhang Kechun

The Yellow River

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Saying that it is a song might have been a popular joke. Saying that it is our mother river or the root of soul might have been a deliberate oblivion. Indulging ourselves in the turbulent pleasures of modernized world day after day, we might have put the winding river out of mind, and would not like to give any more calm gaze on it, even a second.

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.



Then I determined to go and follow its pace, with all my courage and my only presentable tool — a large-format camera. That is my implicit expression. I have the knowledge that mountains and rivers are nothing a photographer may properly comment on, and behaviors like growling, making a bold pledge or a plaintive complaint on the presence of such an eternal being may look inappropriate. Now, it’s the moment that I must wake up my silent soul to quietly keep watch on it flowing for seasons, to stare at it through this journey, to drink a toast to it, to sing a song for it, and to have a sleep beside it.

Who is keeping watching on whom? Who is wrapped with the flow with whom? While be alive, we all go by with time. But we are still here, and we may have a better consideration on the future after having a look at the past and the present with heart.




Zhang Kechun was born in 1980 in Sichuan province, China. He now lives and works in Chengdu. His work has been reported by multiple publications including Time, BBC News, Telegraph Magazine, China Photo Magazine and so on. His works have been collected internationally by many other museums and private Collectors from U.S.A, France, Germany, Japan and China, such as Chinese Image and Video Archive, Canada; Williams College Museum of Arts, USA; and CAFA Art Museum, China.

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Zhang Kechun

14 thoughts on “Zhang Kechun – The Yellow River”

  1. Excellent work. Meaning coupled with artistry and vision. Wait, that’ not right. Meaning in a threesome with artistry and vision. I, too, enjoyed the tone.

  2. Michael Dean McDonald

    I really love the white space he uses in these photographs. Very eerie and mysterious yet with the human element. Some of them almost looked other worldly. Cormac McCarthy’s “the road” mixed with “Oblivion”. I appreciate this photo essay. Thanks David!

  3. Masterful series. Here is a quote that I like on Zhang’s Yellow River pictures from The New Republic: “Despite referencing the steady environmental destruction that is taking place along the river, there is also something hopeful in the images. The river will continue to run.” And as long as the river runs and, as China begins to deal with its impact on the environment, there is the possibility of reversal and redemption. But this series is a lot more poetic and deeper than that, as it touches on the past as well as the present.

  4. Peter David Grant

    I enjoyed the feeling that spread through out the series, that no matter how much money or effort a country puts into a place, nature can still make its presence known.

  5. wow. no wonder his work is collected worldwide. this guy is gonna be a star; already is. i’m skeptical that china will ever turn its attention to ecological concerns, and it’s scary for all of us around the globe.

  6. While many strive to shoot in that magic time of low light, these, seemingly taken in harsh mid-day light, are stunningly beautiful. Large format photography just cannot be beat, especially when wielded so well in the hands of a skillful photographer.
    Zhang, in the opening shot, is that man fishing with the net or some other activity?

  7. 權威性!影院!生存!我喜歡這個攝影!……





  8. Really love the atmosphere of these photos. Macro and micro measures of interest in every corner of the frame: even in the haze and mist, the faint horizons seems to have some message.

  9. I am completely taken with this work. Sequencing is also superb, and what a closer. Likely people will make comparison to Nadav Kander’s work on the Yangtze but that does nothing to diminish this obviously very personal work for me. Large format doesn’t always translate well onto the computer screen but this certainly does. To see these in large prints would be amazing. Inspired … now dusting off my large format camera …

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