-- Artist statement
For around thirty years, I have been observing China, with its economic, cultural and social evolution. Thirty years in which the pulse of the country has been racing. Things have been moving fast. Too fast. The landscapes and cities have been transformed, becoming alienated and spoilt. Everything is being sacrificed in the name of development and profit. At any price.
As a firsthand witness to this frenzy, I wanted to pause time and pick up my Leica and rolls of film, like an easel. I wanted to stop and play with the vanishing points and the figures, with modern China as a backdrop, photographed like a shifting mirage. The patient waiting for pure lines and outlines, the subtle constancy of the emerging image… It was like a tale halfway between reality and my imagination.
For “Conte d’hiver” [Winter’s Tale], I chose Songhua River in the northeast of China, an immense blank page or backdrop for my attempt to capture life in the Chinese north. I rose before dawn for the bluish light and all the early birds who stretched, danced, swam, sung and screamed as if anything were permissible before the sun came up. I waited in the freezing cold for the children to leave for school and the workers to set off for work, going from one bank to another, by bicycle, foot or tuk-tuk in all weather, the mind and the body still a little hazy with accumulated fatigue.
I trailed the fisherman strolling like troubadours with nets slung over their shoulders, crisscrossing the river from ice hole to ice hole. On windy days, I talked to the old men with their homemade kites, immense dragons on leashes held by retired kids. I coaxed the cold not to give up. Admittedly, I exhausted myself on this river, plagued with raging doubts, as ardent as they were frosty, but every time I was reinvigorated with gratitude for the beauty of the landscapes.
More information: catherinehenriette.com