Green fields stretching to the horizon and trees rising up to the sky, bridges crossing streams and trails of smoke rising from the chimney of a house—that’s what you expect to see in the traditional landscapes of Chinese shanshui art, whose name literally means “mountains and water.”
But the scenes captured by Zhang Kechun have none of this. His series Between the Mountain and the Water is shrouded in stillness, poverty, and thick smog. The locations he shot certainly lie between mountains and water, but high rises have replaced the green peaks, and debris has stopped up the flowing rivers.
In 2008, Zhang Kechun experienced first-hand the cataclysmic Wenchuan earthquake in northwestern Sichuan, and the snapshot he took of that terrifying moment won him the National Geographic Picks Global Contest. The experience, he says, “broadened his field of vision and made his work more systematic.” After shooting his series The Yellow River, in which he traced the waterway up to its source, his photography “naturally expanded to cover the entire country.” And that’s how this new series came about.
Scouting out the perfect location is essential to every shoot. Barren mountains, crumbling walls, surreal scenes with clusters of high rises—they’re all hidden in plain sight, waiting to be discovered. The hazy, low-contrast feel of his images also doesn’t need much post-processing, it just needs to be shot on an overcast day.
2008 年，张克纯亲历了那场灾难性的汶川大地震，抓拍到震撼的瞬间，让他一举获得美国国家地理学会全球摄影大赛自然类大奖。这段经历所带给张克纯的，他说，是让他的 “视野更宽泛，工作更系统”。在拍摄完沿着黄河溯源的《北流活活》系列之后，张克纯镜头里的视野，就 “自然而然地覆盖到整个国家”。因此，这个系列也就应运而生了。
“My focus has really always been how ordinary people get by in such a rapidly developing country. Against a sweeping historical backdrop, I look at the lives of those who play bit parts,” Zhang says. “I covered practically the whole country to take these photos.”
The scene that left the deepest impression on him is an image of students holding class under a truncated bridge. The imposingly tall structure cuts through the landscape, heading who knows where, while a group of students lined up in rows attend a physical education class underneath, obediently following instructions.
“I think it’s a metaphor for the current state of China,” he says of the photo. He thinks all of his works are very explicit: they’re the kind of image that can be easily understood at a glance. Perhaps his photos, in the subjects they capture and the stories they tell, offer a thinly veiled commentary on a country constantly in the throes of sweeping change.