Exhibition of Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s aerial photos debuts at 2018 China International Photographic Art Festival
‘Earth from Above’
Published: May 21, 2018 05:48 PM


A visitor examines a photo at the Earth from Above exhibition Photo: Xu Liuliu/GT


Yann Arthus-Bertrand Photo: Xu Liuliu/GT

People always say that a picture is worth a thousand words. This is one of the main reasons why photo exhibitions always manage to catch the public's attention. It is also why French photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand manages to attract fans no matter where he travels, be it big cities like Paris and Shanghai or smaller Chinese cities such as Zhengzhou, which is currently hosting the 2018 China International Photographic Art Festival (CIPAF), where one can find Arthus'Bertrand's Earth from Above exhibition. 

As one of China's biggest photo festivals, CIPAF is showcasing numerous exhibitions of artwork from photographers from home and abroad across two venues: the Shengda Art Gallery and the Cultural Plaza located at Zhengzhou's New District.

High in the sky

One of his most well-known projects, the United Nations supported Earth from Above features the aerial photographs that Arthus-Bertrand took over a period of 10 years. The photographer captured vistas of Earth from various aircraft and produced a photo essays-style collection of his work. In 2000, the project debuted as a free exhibition in Paris, then traveled to Montreal and 150 other cities around the globe.

At the a preview of the exhibition on Thursday, Arthus-Bertrand recounted how his aerial photography career started after he and his wife moved to Kenya to observe the daily life of lions.

"Every day, I took a lot of pictures of the lions there and gradually gained a passion for photography. As I observed them from above in a hot air balloon, the idea of photographing wildlife and landscapes from the air came to my mind. So I started to take a lot of photos and since then have never stopped," he said. 

The ongoing exhibition in Zhengzhou features 195 aerial photos taken in more than 80 countries and regions making it a must-see exhibition for lovers of the great outdoors. All of the essay-like photos come with captions in both English and Chinese that give detailed accounts of the behind-the-scene stories of the photographs and more.

For the 20-something Yang, a local college student, the flamingos that were captured in some photos were so cute that it has inspired her to travel to Africa to see them with her own eyes. However, she was also saddened after learning about the negative impact human activities have had on these creatures after she read the introduction to Arthus-Bertrand's photo Flamingos on Lake Nakuru, Kenya

Even though the photo was taken in the 1990s, Arthus-Bertrand still remembers the story of these birds very clearly. Lake Nakuru is home to more than 400 species of birds, including lesser flamingos and greater flamingos.

However, deforestation and fertilizer and waste water pollution from nearby towns in the region have gradually deteriorated the quality of the water to the detriment of local plant and animals.

"Half of those flamingos have flown away from the lake," Arthus-Bertrand noted.

In the preface to the exhibition, Chinese curator Jiang Jian wrote that the exhibition contains a profound awareness of humanity's unexpected ability to survive crisis.

"It is meaningful to bring this exhibition to China. China is facing some environmental issues as well like air pollution in large cities and the country is working very hard to improve them. So I hope to raise people's awareness about environmental protection and wildlife," said Arthus-Bertrand.

This is not the first time that Jiang has been connected to Arthus-Bertrand. The curator previously worked with Arthus-Bertrand and Chinese photographer Li Gang to present their Horse and Horse exhibition. Back to 2014, Arthus-Bertrand turned to Li for help in shooting some scenes of horses for his film Home after seeing Li's photo Snowland Horse in the French magazine Le Figaro.

According to Jiang, the two artists have very different approaches when it comes to taking photos of horses.

"Through Yann's lens, horses look like well-trained race horses, while Li's horses are wild and can be seen running freely in the wild. Arthus-Bertrand records horses in typical Western documentary-like way, while Li's approach is closer to the more abstract approach of Chinese landscape painting," Jiang explained.

Images of the world

In addition to the works of Arthus-Bertrand, the festival is displaying scenic photos, landscapes, as well as documentary-style photos until June 18.

Chinese photographer Li Xueliang is showcasing the photos he has taken of the scenery in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region over the past 30 years during his numerous trips to the region's Tianshan Mountains and Kunlun Glacier.

A group exhibition, Visioni Unusual Beauty of Italy uses passionate glances and inquiring visions to tell "a story which remains as common thread throughout the whole exhibition," according to the curator Claudio Brufola.

"It is a project, in which the human presence is predominant. We say that it is the protagonist, very often surrounded by places and symbols, both social and cultural and obviously also imaginary," Brufola explains in the preface to the exhibit.

Works from young international photographers are also being exhibited at the Photographs of the Silk Road: Belt and Road International Youth Photography Exhibition.