This portfolio reflects the third part of a documentary project called “China – other Cities”, which aims at giving a photographic face to Chinese Cities less known or less widely depicted than Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou.
Pictures were taken in November 2010
Good traveling does not leave tracksI really wanted to discover Wuhan, one day or another. Zhengzhou and Shenyang I visited before were totally unknown to me, empty of signs, memories or even guess. Here, I had my own pre-view that I wanted to confront to reality; Heavy industries, the Yangtze River, maybe a smell of an old French concession, Marc Riboud of course. I focused my work on Hankou, one of the three historical parts of the City, to stay coherent in my vision and my approach of the space. Every day, I went up and down one specific perimeter of the City, which I selected from a basic and often incomprehensible map. Wandering, even involuntary, is crucial to the photographer. Railways tracks or bridges, highways intersections, tunnels, river banks, bus lines, the shape or the color of buildings, the sun in the often white sky, the feeling of a nearby station or avenue, all show me the way, a way. Then, photography becomes the art of getting yourself lost, walking to the dead end, absorbed by the environment, lost but immersed and aware enough to build pictures from your progress, pictures which echo each others, get sequenced and make one decent photography, sometimes just before the sunset, finally. About Wuhan I could say: if you are not a photographer, never go to Wuhan, there is absolutely nothing to see there. No landmark, nothing the eye can really hold on, only people in a giant, lively and noisy Chinese city. Sure, as usual, I spent more time in popular and old districts or around the highway edges my instinct pushed me to… And this emptiness of signs is why I went there, like I went to Zhengzhou and Shenyang before. My photography does not tell stories or search for meaning; neither do any of my pictures. I am just trying to bring together some fragments of a visual puzzle cut in the places I went to. All is real but will vanish when my journey is over. Good traveling does not leave tracks. Travelling all over China in photography without paying its tribute to Marc Riboud is inconceivable. Wuhan was inevitable; For a photographer, the picture of Mao ruling the country from his pedestal and showing the wind of change to factory chimneys could justify a trip there by itself. I have not seen or found those factories in Hankou, only decayed frames or altered bodies exhaling yellow and exhausted smokey clouds. I walked around the muddy banks of the Yangtze River, unknown among happy shouting and shooting wedding photographers. Below the bridge that pitches cars towards the other side of the City, I was wondering what the Master would have seen, if standing there today. Maybe a ghost of Chairman Mao, his arms dangling in the noise, staring at the distant skyline sketched by Wuchang’s buildings, or at drunken-flying Batman kites, and asking to himself: did the wind blow right? JP Gauvrit Singapore, February 3rd, 2011
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