Dave Tacon – Yangtze River Project

The Yangtze is a central character in a struggle between man and nature. For millennia this mighty river, China’s longest, has been a source of life as well as destruction through catastrophic floods and droughts. A series of dams including the gargantuan Three Gorges Dam is China’s ongoing attempt to bring this river to the heel.

One in every 15 people on earth lives within the Yangtze watershed. This work will survey the ten provinces through which the Yangtze River passes, from its source – a remote glacial lake in the Qinghai-Tibet plateau – to its industrialized delta with Shanghai at its mouth. The bright sunshine of the upper reaches gives way to a pollution haze, a symptom of China’s unprecedented economic boom. Between these two extremes, I have been drawn to quiet and introspective moments shared between the river and those drawn to it in places wholly unfamiliar to most non-Chinese: such as the ethnic minority enclaves in the mountains of Yunnan, with their border-town-feel, to the grey industrial river cities of Anhui, each thousand of miles apart.

The entire project will be shot on an out-of-production panoramic film camera. This cinematic format forces me to slow down the process and make each frame more meditative.

I am undertaking this work to try to come to a more intimate understanding of the country in which I have lived for six years. I have never ceased to marvel at how fast China erases the old and replaces it with a futuristic new without a whiff of nostalgia. So much has already been lost and I am compelled to document what remains before it vanishes, unremembered.



August 28, 2016, Jiujiang, China – A man walks by remade fortifications by the banks of the Yangtze River, seen from a dirty window with graffiti etched into the grime. (Dave Tacon/Polaris)
December 2, 2017, Baoshan Village, China – View of the Jinsha River from a room in Mu’s Guesthouse. (Dave Tacon/Polaris)
October 26, 2015, Wuhan, China – A man fishes from the banks of the Yangtze River. A residential district in Wuchang on the opposite bank can be made out through thick smog. This point in the river is around two thirds of a mile wide. Chairman Mao Zedong, the 73 years of age, famously swam in the Yangtze River on July 16, 1966, in a propaganda stunt on the eve of the Cultural Revolution.
May 16, 2016, Chongqing, China – Dongshuimen Bridge at as seen from Yuzhong on an early morning. This bridge came into operation in 2014 and has a length of 858m. (Dave Tacon/Polaris)

October 26, 2015, Wuhan, China – Drawings of a skyscraper and Chinese characters that spell the name ‘Apricot Lei scratched into the sand on the banks of the Yangtze River.
(Dave Tacon/Polaris)

August 27, 2017, Chongqing, China – Workers are seen through an entrance in temporary fencing made to look like a forest scene at a construction site in Jiangbei District. Chongqing has been China’s fastest-growing city for 10 straight quarters according to a report in the South China Morning Post. (Dave Tacon/Polaris)

March 12, 2017, Shanghai, China – A photoshoot for a couple engaged to be wed at Yangtze River Wetlands Park. (Dave Tacon/Polaris)

November 12, 2017, Wuhu, China – A couple walks from steps that have been decorated with metal sculptures of giant crabs on the edge of the Yangtze River. (Dave Tacon/Polaris)

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