Zhang Kechun is a Chinese photographer based in Chengdu, a city located in the country’s southwest. Zhang spends his days working as a freelance designer, which gives the artist an opportunity to travel across the country on the lookout for new places to shoot. His latest series Between the Mountains and Water is a result of Zhang’s extensive travelling and features grand landscape shots of large, expansive mountain ranges and immense, concrete bridges. “Ten years ago, I spent three years shooting my last series Yellow River. After completing this project, I decided to continue looking for remarkable settings. Instead of shooting the river shore like I did in Yellow River, I ventured inland to look for impressive natural phenomena and man-built structures,” Zhang tells It’s Nice That.
China is currently undergoing high-speed technological, industrial and economic changes, which, in turn, prompted Zhang to reflect on the ever-changing relationship between individuals and their surrounding landscapes. “It feels as though a strong, destructive and unstoppable force is spreading across our natural landscapes. Under the circumstances, I consider myself to be very insignificant in comparison,” he says. These existential thoughts are reflected in Between the Mountains and Water. Zhang’s vast settings often include human figures which appear dwarfed by their spectacular surroundings. Zhang offers the viewer a refreshing and alternative perspective in an anthropocentric world that values the individual above all else.
“I was particularly influenced by Chinese paintings from the Song Dynasty as I really like the way they arranged and formatted their art,” Zhang says. This comes as little surprise; the Song Dynasty saw the rise of Shan Shui paintings – “shan” translates to mountain and “shui” to river. It was also during the Song Dynasty that artists started to place a greater importance on landscape paintings that depict humans as mere dots on the canvas. Similarly, Zhang’s remarkable landscape shots portray humans as tiny specks, easily overlooked in the vast, insurmountable landscapes. Zhang uses a large format camera and chooses predominantly cloudy days to shoot, which lends his photography a soft and dreamy tone.
During the course of his travels, Zhang looks for fellow travellers who appear particularly in tune with the surrounding nature. The photographer then proceeds to temporarily join them in their journey and get to know them before he presses the shutter. Zhang believes his best shots are a result of giving in to another person’s travels and with no particular destination in mind. “I believe that I can’t feel stronger or more in tune with myself than when I am lost and not thinking about the future. Great anxieties always lie ahead but they are likely to disappear tomorrow.”
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