The River Beneath the Lake.
Photographs and text by Linda Butler. Foreward by Simon Winchester.
Stanford University Press, Stanford, 2004. 192 pp., 112 black-and-white illustrations, 11½x13".
With her most current project, Linda Butler brings the meticulous, slow-paced tradition of large format, b&w photography to the Chinese landscape and the world's largest engineering project. The result is a penetrating, humanist portrait of the fabled Yangtze River and the people who make their livelihood along its banks. Though they seem timelessly rooted in the region in Butler's sensitive imagery, the people are now being uprooted for the completion of the Three Gorges Dam project, when the entire region will be flooded. Thus, the book is a kind of ironic, pre-catastrophe archaeological dig, presenting the culture before it was destroyed. Butler's work parallels the type of undertaking of E. S. Curtis's monumental project, The North American Indian, but foregoes the romanticism and quasi-spirituality Curtis projected onto his subjects. She has found an exemplary balance between sweeping vistas and formal portraits, between the interiors of humble country dwellings and the grandeur of the dam construction itself.
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