Terra Galleria Photography

Treasured Lands in China

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Before being a book, Treasured Lands was the name of my traveling exhibit of large format photographs of American’s national parks, which has now shown in museums and galleries across the US. Last month, I traveled to China on the occasion of the first international exhibition of Treasured Lands.

The venue was the Li Yuan Photographic Art Museum in Ningbo. You probably have not heard of that city before, and neither did I. However, Ningbo has an urban population of 3.4 million, more than any US city besides New York and Los Angeles. Ningbo is one of China’s oldest cities and is located 140 miles south of Shanghai. The Li Yuan Photographic Art Museum, together with the Ningo Museum, is located in a large city park. Both buildings were designed by Wang Shu, the first Chinese citizen to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize – considered to be the equivalent of the Nobel prize for architecture.

Comprised of now 61 framed 24×36 prints, one for each national park, Treasured Lands requires quite a bit of walls. The museum features a beautiful space large enough to fit Treasured Lands without any print stacking. When Treasured Lands debuted at our (since closed) Terra Galleria Artworks gallery within the Bergamot Station in Santa Monica, more than a decade ago, in order to enliven the sequence and break the monotony caused by the uniformity of the print sizes, I included a few larger prints. In a work with a fixed format, be it an exhibit or a book, introducing a few outliers can do wonders. Back then, the largest inkjet printers could output at a maximum of 44 inch wide. I included a 40×60 inch Yosemite print and other large prints. However, in order to make it easier to ship the traveling exhibit, I dropped those larger prints from subsequent installations, leaving it to the host venues to produce larger prints if desired. Only two of them, the National Heritage Museum and the Museum of Science in Boston, did so as exhibit openers. I was therefore delighted to see that Mr Lai, the curator of the Li Yuan Photographic Art Museum had selected four prints to be printed larger, and the current availability of 64-inch inkjet printers meant that they could now be reproduced at an impressive 60×90 size which does justice to the detail contained in a 5×7 transparency.

Following the opening reception, I delivered a lecture at the Ningo Museum. Since copies of the second edition of the Treasured Lands book had just been printed in Shenzhen, I thought it would be an easy matter to get some shipped to Ningo for that occasion, but it turned out to be unpractical due to Chinese export regulations. Many attendees nevertheless lined up after the lecture to have the invitation postcard autographed.

I am very grateful to Li Yuan Photographic Art Museum, the curator Mr Lai, the staff, the leaders from the cultural community, and the organizer and interpreter Mr Lam for their hard work. I am very honored to have received this invitation from the city of Ningbo and the People’s Republic of China. Thank you to Yon Zhan Daily, and also Singto Daily, for reporting.

The National Parks are one of the greatest ideas that originated in America: that the nation’s most beautiful places should be preserved for everyone, and in perpetuity. America’s national parks would be a model for the world. China has one of the oldest civilizations on earth, however, America’s development is much more recent, because of that we had more opportunities there to preserve lands in a wild state. The difference between the two countries is instructive. There are about 200 national parks in China, but it was not until the later part of the 20th century that they were designated, whereas Yellowstone, was established in 1872. On this year which marks the 40th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic relations between China and the US (the title of this post is a reference to John Adams’s first opera) I felt humbled to be given this opportunity to promote international friendship by representing and helping spread “America’s Best Idea”.

2 Comments

  1. Eric Jaeger says:

    Congratulations!

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