Nadav Kander’s China

Last year Nadav Kander, an Israeli-born photographer who grew up in South Africa, won the prestigious Prix Pictet for his essay on the Yangtze River. His photographs go on show in Berlin in January

artsouthafrica issues
Nadav Kander, Chongqing II, Chongqing Municipality, 2006
BERLIN, Dec. 14, 2010 — Nadav Kander, a photographer
whose personal portfolio is marked by moments of defrocked beauty and
existential ennui, grew up next door to William Kentridge in Houghton. After
doing his military service, a photographer he assisted asked him how big his
ambition was. “Big!” he replied. “Go overseas,” he was told. So he did, Kander
establishing himself as one of the world’s leading advertising photographers.

Although represented in the collections such as the Victoria &
Albert Museum and Palais de Tokyo, Kander has struggled a bit in artsy circles
over the last decade. This looks set to change. Last year Kander, who regularly
returns to Johannesburg to hangout with printer friend Dennis da Silva at
Silvertone, was awarded with the prestigious Prix Pictet for his essay on the
rapid infrastructural changes happening along the Yangtze River. At 6300km the
Yangtze is the longest river in Asia and third longest in the world.
Nadav Kander, Chongqing XI, Chongqing Municipality, 2007
Kander, born in Israel in 1962, has been revisiting the
river over the course of three years, from 2005 to 2007, in order to document
the life in over 186 cities and countless villages, all situated along the
mouth of the river and all the way up to its spring in the Himalayas.

His landscape studies, all seemingly infused with a
sulphurous haze, go on show at Berlin’s Camera Work Gallery in January and will
be accompanied by a new book from publisher Hatje Cantz.
Nadav Kander, Chongqing VII (Washing Bike), Chongqing Municipality, 2006
It is not the first time Kander has
embarked on such an ambitious project. In 2002 he travelled to Cappadoccia,
in the central Turkish region of the Anatolia, to photograph two distinct
Roma groups living there. His debut monograph, Beauty’s Nothing (2001), which included
texts by singer Nick Cave and Warhol acolyte Gerard
Malanga, featured Kander’s portrait
series of Cuban sex workers.

“I am not after the ‘moment’,” he said in a
2002 interview, “I am far more after doing a picture that asks questions.
Subconsciously I am also more interested in pictures that the author isn’t
entirely responsible for, that point in front of you that you are not entirely
author.”

Nadav Kander’s Yangtze — The Long River is on show at
Camera Work from January 22 to March 12, 2011.
Nadav Kander, Nanjing V, Jiangsu Province, 2007
Nadav Kander, Shanghai I, 2006
Nadav Kander, Wu Gorge, Hubei, 2007
Nadav Kander, Yibin III, Sichuan, 2007
Nadav Kander, Yibin V, Sichuan Province, 2007
All photographers courtesy of photographer and Camera Work AG