It may be embarrassing to admit this, but I hadn’t even heard of Nadav Kander until last week when I was at the Constructing Worlds exhibition at the Barbican and I found myself standing mesmerised in front of his photographs taken along the Yangtze River.
In keeping with the exhibition’s theme, the photographs focus on architecture or rather on the impact of industrialisation on the natural landscapes. One of the most intriguing aspects of the images is the prevailing mist, making the scenes look almost magical or otherworldly. I commented on this to Alona Pardo, one of the show’s co-curators, during an interview for PORT magazine and she told me that the mist is, in fact, pollution. So not quite so magical then. It’s an idea which really interests me though: the illusion of beauty. It stresses the importance, in this case, of understanding a landscape’s history and development as tourists and emphasises our ignorance, but it also demonstrates the peculiar type of beauty to be found in contamination, the industrial and the ugly, which isn’t really an illusion at all. In China, the beauty is born out of transience. The landscapes are changing daily due to the rapid pace of development, meaning that Kander’s photographs can never be taken again, those places no longer exist. So that’s where the ghostly feeling of another world comes from.
I really recommend heading to the Barbican to see some of the images in person, you can also view Kander’s whole portfolio including some great portraits on his website: http://www.nadavkander.com/