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Traces, China

Traces is an epic exploration into the industrial hinterlands of China’s far flung and impoverished provinces such as Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, and Shaanxi; including also the country’s most polluted city, Linfen, once nicknamed in the 80s as the “Modern Fruit and Flower Town”.
The series depict scenes in the countryside, a traditionally rural landscape that in the past three decades has seen the encroachment of industrialization. Set where once farmlands grew green, these images depict the fast-breeding industry of cement, steel and coal. Rampant growth, corruption and poorly regulated laws have allowed factories to spill their untreated effluent into local streams. Over-mining has caused rivers to run dry and noxious fumes rise and fall again as acid rain and the ecosystem of vast areas are stripped by the looming promise of luxury apartments. These immense swaths of agricultural land have become the centre stage for much of China’s industrial revolution.
It is this space, where the edges of cities and heavy industry continually impinge upon the countryside in its progressive expansion that has been the focus of my attention.
Whilst there is no doubt that China and many of its people have benefitted enormously from its economic reform policies it is also clear that it faces an environmental crisis that puts its future in an uncertain balance.
To illustrate, I quote a retired truck driver in Inner Mongolia, “ Nowadays we have a better standard of living even if our life spans are shorter because of the pollution.
Nothing made here stays here, our government has exported our blue skies to the West.”
In a bid for economic and financial growth, the work bears contemplative witness to the consequential tears to the land and ultimately man’s impact on his surroundings.
From industrialization to pollution I am fascinated with the landscape being a repository for humanity’s endeavors; being somehow a source of memory and a silent
testament to our material desires.

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