Yan Changjiang

Overall Rating: 9
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Author: Yan Changjiang (颜长江)
Title: Three Gorges Diary (三峡日志)
Time: 2002-2008
Destination: Three Gorges region, China
Length: several trips
Type: journalism
Rating: 9/10

Pictures from oblivion

The story: YCJ is a photographer from the Three Gorges region who lives and works in Guangzhou. He travels back home in 2002 to document the areas that will be flooded by the Three Gorges Dam, and after that, he comes back multiple times until 2008, when the project is finished and the water level is seriously starting to rise.

great photo journal

A great part of this book is made up of the photographs – and they are absolutely stunning! YCJ apparently uses film equipment way more than digital, so his pictures are not the glossy kind, but instead they have a dreamy feel to them that I found totally mesmerizing. When I was flipping through the pages, I could breathe the air and hear the sounds of the Chinese South, and sometimes I thought that there was even the notion of river sand under my feet. I’d say the pictures alone are well worth buying this book.

laconic writing style

The writing was a bit hard for me to understand though. CYJ likes to express his thoughts in a rather laconic style, often even resorting to some sort of mock Classical Chinese (“古文也”). So it took a bit of work from my part. But in the end, it was a very good read. CYJ’s observations are both insightful and personal, and he tries to lend a voice to the people from his home. And his journey is not an easy one: facing health problems, feelings of loneliness and self doubt, and even the SARS crisis of 2002/2003, he still manages to introduce us to the people and their culture, to brilliant landscapes and to a region that is about to be buried under water.

Yan Changjiang’s personal account

And he is not shy to express his personal feelings either. One of the photo projects he was working on during that time apparently consisted of himself and a rope. The idea was to act out a kind of “hangman” theme in certain places next to the river. What a personal statement. And what a symbolic one.

Get this book! 9/10.

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