ZHANG KECHUN (Born 1980)

ZHANG KECHUN (Born 1980)
Zhang Kechun is best known for his large format photographs of post-industrial Chinese landscapes. He produces epic vistas that dwell on the significance of the landscape in modern Chinese national identity. He is represented in the United Kingdom by Beetles+Huxley gallery.
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TWO MEN PAINTING A HOUSE IN THE RIVER, GANSU, 2011 by ZHANG KECHUN (Born 1980) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

TWO MEN PAINTING A HOUSE IN THE RIVER, GANSU, 2011

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A BUDDHA HEAD IN THE MOUNTAIN, 2015 by ZHANG KECHUN (Born 1980) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

A BUDDHA HEAD IN THE MOUNTAIN, 2015

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PEOPLE FISHING BY THE RIVER, SHAANXI, 2012 by ZHANG KECHUN (Born 1980) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

PEOPLE FISHING BY THE RIVER, SHAANXI, 2012

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LAKE IN THE DESERT, 2014 by ZHANG KECHUN (Born 1980) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

LAKE IN THE DESERT, 2014

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PEOPLE CROSSING THE YELLOW RIVER WITH A PHOTO OF MAO ZEDONG, HENAN, 2012 by ZHANG KECHUN (Born 1980) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

PEOPLE CROSSING THE YELLOW RIVER WITH A PHOTO OF MAO ZEDONG, HENAN, 2012

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AN OVERTURNED CEMENT TRUCK, QINGHAI, 2011 by ZHANG KECHUN (Born 1980) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

AN OVERTURNED CEMENT TRUCK, QINGHAI, 2011

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A FAMILY SPENDING THE WEEKEND UNDER A BRIDGE, SHANDONG, CHINA, 2011 by ZHANG KECHUN (Born 1980) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

A FAMILY SPENDING THE WEEKEND UNDER A BRIDGE, SHANDONG, CHINA, 2011

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SCULPTURES IN THE COUNTRY, INNER MONGOLIA, 2011 by ZHANG KECHUN (Born 1980) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

SCULPTURES IN THE COUNTRY, INNER MONGOLIA, 2011

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PEOPLE DOING MORNING EXERCISE UNDER A DRAGON LAMP, GANSU, 2011 by ZHANG KECHUN (Born 1980) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

PEOPLE DOING MORNING EXERCISE UNDER A DRAGON LAMP, GANSU, 2011

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PEOPLE DRINK TEA BY THE RIVER, 2013 by ZHANG KECHUN (Born 1980) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

PEOPLE DRINK TEA BY THE RIVER, 2013

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STONE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE RIVER, 2013 by ZHANG KECHUN (Born 1980) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

STONE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE RIVER, 2013

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A ROCKERY IN THE MIDDLE OF A DRY LAKE, SHANDONG, 2011 by ZHANG KECHUN (Born 1980) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

A ROCKERY IN THE MIDDLE OF A DRY LAKE, SHANDONG, 2011

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WORKERS BUILDING BRIDGE PIERS FOR A HIGH-SPEED RAILWAY, SHAANXI, 2011 by ZHANG KECHUN (Born 1980) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

WORKERS BUILDING BRIDGE PIERS FOR A HIGH-SPEED RAILWAY, SHAANXI, 2011

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MEN CLIMBING A BILLBOARD, QINGHAI, 2011 by ZHANG KECHUN (Born 1980) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

MEN CLIMBING A BILLBOARD, QINGHAI, 2011

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A MAN STANDING ON AN ISLAND IN THE MIDDLE OF THE RIVER SHAANXI, CHINA, 2012 by ZHANG KECHUN (Born 1980) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

A MAN STANDING ON AN ISLAND IN THE MIDDLE OF THE RIVER SHAANXI, CHINA, 2012

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WHITE DEER UNDER A COOLING TOWER, INNER MONGOLIA, 2010 by ZHANG KECHUN (Born 1980) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

WHITE DEER UNDER A COOLING TOWER, INNER MONGOLIA, 2010

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The Yellow River

Zhang Kechun was born in 1980 in Sichuan, China, and started painting when he was a child. He studied art and design and worked as a designer in Chengdu before becoming interested in photography. His first series The Yellow River documented the effects of modernisation along the third longest river in Asia, which is also known as Huang He. Zhang's second series Seascapes is a homage to Hiroshi Sugimoto's famous series by the same title.

Zhang received the inspiration for The Yellow River from Chengzhi Zhang's novel River of the North. The project took him on a two-year journey along the river from the coastal flats of Shandong in the east to the mountains of Qinghai in the west, all on a fold-up bicycle, all the time carrying with him a large format Linhof camera. The Yellow River is considered the cradle of Chinese civilization, often called the "Mother River", but also to be a threat, capable of breaking its banks anytime. The areas surrounding the river have been devastated by flooding in recent years and Zhang's photographs capture the emotional impact of this on the local population with an eerily quiet atmosphere. The river constantly dwarfs the people who rely on, rendering them vulnerable to its might.

"I wanted to photograph the river respectfully", Zhang has said, "it represents the root of the nation". Zhang shot on cloudy days and overexposed the photographs to produce a soft, subtle tonal range. Whilst the project was not intended to confront environmental issues in the same way that Nadav Kander did so in his work on the Yangtze River, Zhang found that ecological matters became unavoidable. "I started off wanting to photograph my ideal of the river, but I kept running into pollution," he has said, "I realised that I couldn't run away from it, and that I didn't need to run away from it."

Zhang Kechun's works are quietly beautiful and hugely atmospheric, using a soft and subtle colour palette. Whilst Zhang imbues the altered landscape of China with a tragic beauty, his photographs also are also hugely witty, showing the frequently absurd scenarios in which the inhabitants of the river's surroundings find themselves.

Exhibitions and Awards

Zhang won the Discovery Award at Les Rencontres d'Arles for The Yellow River in 2014. Working with the agency Most, Zhang also undertakes editorial and advertising commissions. He won the National Geographic Picks Global Photo Contest in 1998 and was shortlisted at the World Photography Awards in 2013. He has been exhibited at Photoquai, Paris; the Beijing Photo Biennale and the Delhi Photo Festival, India.

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