“OF RIVERS AND MANTRAS”: MEKONG PHOTO EXHIBITION & DOCUS
The Mekong River, one of the world’s epic rivers such as the Amazon, the Ganges, and the Nile, has been providing sublime nourishment for survival to millions of people for thousands of years. Our mental time-lapse film of the Mekong River in which a flurry of lifeblood activity buzzes around the unfettered metronomesque pulse of the river is now irrevocably being altered. One word that does not come to mind when we think of the “mighty” Mekong River is vulnerable, and yet that is precisely what it has become.
Data reflecting the effects of climate change and the continual building of hydroelectric dams on the hydrology of the Mekong River and the surrounding ecosystems can often be complex and subject to various interpretations. For this reason one of the main focuses of “Of Rivers and Mantras” is to attach a human face to those whose methods of survival are intrinsically connected to the Mekong River and are therefore directly impacted by these abstract sets of data in very real ways.
The series begins with the “My Tho Panoramic, Mekong Delta, Vietnam”, a panoramic image that is monumental in scale (twelve feet long) and utilizes a micro / macro relationship that captures both the daily activities of My Tho’s denizens in an intimate manner while evoking the sweeping force of the river as it surges through My Tho.
Other images in the series such as the “Fisherwoman, Vientiane” and “Pan, Phnom Penh” are portraits, perhaps figurative portraits would be a better description, capturing daily life along the Mekong River, in this case, in Laos and Cambodia respectively.
The series concludes with a diptych of panoramics shot in Vientiane, Laos. These two images were shot from the exact same vantage point months apart at two distinctively different times of the year, the first one during the rainy season, when the level of the river is naturally at its highest, and the second one in the dry season when the level of the river is at its lowest. When juxtaposed, the lines of the horizon are identical in both images while the fluctuations in the water levels of the river are vastly different.
The “Of Rivers and Mantras: the Mekong System” was shot using large and medium format film cameras, the film then custom processed and drum-scanned by the photographer himself in order to ensure that the very specific analog tonal values the photographer desired were achieved.