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Impressions Gallery

exhibitions: past

Mother River

Yan Wang Preston

31st Mar - 24th Jun 2017

Mother River is a photographic odyssey taking the viewer on a journey along the entire length of the Yangtze, often known as China’s Mother River. This new exhibition, commissioned in partnership with Gallery of Photography Ireland, offers fresh perspectives on China, where traditional landscape clashes with present-day development.

The epic project follows a simple premise: to document the 6,211km route of the river from source to delta, using a strict Y Points System to photograph every 100 kilometres. Made over a period of four years, Yan Wang Preston travelled to the remote high Tibetan Plateau through the Three Gorges to the river’s end at Shanghai. She had to find and photograph sixty-three locations in incredibly diverse and often remote terrain. Since the river source is 5,400 metres above sea level, and half of its length flows through some of the most majestic mountains on the Earth, Mother River is on one level a modern-day adventure, where the photographer faced hazards from altitude sickness to mudslides.

Preston used a large-format field camera, the kind used by nineteenth century explorers. Although cumbersome and complex to use on location, the camera produces huge negatives, offering images with astonishing detail and resolution.

For Chinese-born Preston, Mother River is in part an epic pilgrimage through her native country: an exhaustive exploration of a powerful symbol that reconnects her with the ancestral homeland. Closely associated with Chinese traditional paintings and an icon of the national landscape, the Yangtze represents the folklore of traditional China. However, with over 30 hydroelectric dams on its course, the river is synonymous with China’s rapid industrialisation.  Preston hopes Mother River will raise questions about the relationship between nature and culture, tradition and regeneration.

Mother River is part of Views from China, a special six month programme of exhibitions and events at Impressions, taking a fresh look at Chinese culture and the long standing links between the UK and China.

A touring exhibition from Impressions Gallery and Gallery of Photography Ireland.

Yan Wang Preston (Born Henan Province, China, 1976) originally trained as a doctor in Shanghai before moving to the UK in 2005. Her work has been exhibited at Glasgow International Festival of Visual Arts (2014), Noorderlicht Photography Festival, the Netherlands (2012), the National Portrait Gallery, London (2006) and Touchstones Gallery, Rochdale (2014). She won the Shiseido Photographer Prize at the Three Shadows Photography Award in Beijing in 2016, was ‘Reviewers Choice’ at FORMAT International Photography Festival 2014, and has ben nominated twice for the Prix Pictet Award in 2015 and 2016. Preston was selected for the 2015 UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange, with Mother River exhibited at the Chongqing China Three Gorges Museum; Wuhan Art Museum; and The Swatch Art Peace Hotel, Shanghai.

The accompanying Chinese cultural events programme is sponsored by The Business Confucius Institute at the University of Leeds.


Exhibition resources

Click here to download an information sheet about the exhibition (pdf 342kb)
Click here to download our interview with Yan Wang Preston (pdf 150kb)
Click here to download an exhibition guide (pdf 750kb)
Click here to download a gallery trail for the exhibition (pdf 2.7 mb)


Y25: 距江源2400公里 2,400km from the river source

Y25: 距江源2400公里 2,400km from the river source

Yan Wang Preston

Click on thumbnail below to enlarge

Y25: 距江源2400公里 2,400km from the river source Y18: 距江源1700公里 1700km from the river source Y24: 距江源2300公里 2,300km from the river source Y32: 距江源3100公里 3,100km from the river source Y40: 距江源3900公里 3,900km from the river source Y61: 距江源6000公里 6,000km from the river source