Fascinated by the cultural changes in contemporary China, Bertien van Manen travelled to China fourteen times between July, 1997, and May, 2000. In her characteristically subtle and sensitive manner, Bertien van Manen produced a personal reportage on China as she saw it: a world of contradictions, a mingling of urban and rural culture, against a communist background.

Her images subtly reveal how traditional Chinese life is influenced by Western culture. Because these changes are most visible among youth, Van Manen focused largely on them. Her work offers an unparalleled insight into domestic life in China. Without being voyeuristic, we get to know people in big cities like Shanghai or Beijing, but also in remote little villages: artists, multi-generation families, sometimes outcasts. The intimacy one feels with the people and situations portrayed is amazing.

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Amsterdam based photographer Bertien van Manen started as freelance photographer in 1977 and in 1979 published her first album. In 1987 and 1988 she photographed coalminers and their families in the American Appalachian mountains.

From 1990 she travelled for three and a half years through the former Soviet Union. The result, the album: “A Hundred Summers a Hundred Winters” , published in 1994, won several prizes and has been widely exhibited internationally. Since 1995 van Manen works in Asia and on a project about men near to her.

From July 1997 through May 2000 Van Manen visited China 14 times and travelled the big cities in the East, West and South of China, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, but also villages in the countryside and in the mountains not far from Tibet. As a result from this experience the book and exhibition East Wind West Wind was published.

Photographs are in public collections including: Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, la Maison Européenne de la Photographie Paris, Museum of Modern Art New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, Photo-Museum Winterthur Zurich, Museum for Photography Antwerp, Metropolitan Museum of Photography Tokyo.

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© Bertien van Manen
© Bertien van Manen
© Bertien van Manen
© Bertien van Manen
© Bertien van Manen
© Bertien van Manen
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© Bertien van Manen
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Exhibition

Van Manen collected her photographic work from July 1997 through May 2000. She visited China 14 times and travelled the big cities in the East, West and South of China, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, but also villages in the countryside and in the mountains not far from Tibet. The result is an expansive body of work that was developed into both an exhibition and a book.

The East Wind West Wind exhibition has traveled through Europe over the course of several years, and also traveled overseas to Chicago on one occasion.

  • 01.10.200901.02.2010Fotodok, Utrecht, the Netherlands

    01.11.200201.02.2003Galerie du Jour Agnès B., Paris, France

    01.01.200301.03.2003Centre Photographique d'Ile de France, Pontault-Combault

    12.04.200204.06.2002The Photographers' Gallery, London, UK

    01.01.200101.03.2001The Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College, Chicago, USA

    01.01.200101.03.2001Nederlands Foto Instituut, Rotterdam, the Netherlands

  • Projection
    7 screens (1.8 x 2.5m) with 7 Kodak S-AV slide projectors

    Photography
    8 tables holding 64 digital prints (ca. 30 x 40 cm)

    Space requirement
    200 – 800m2

Book

“…To penetrate the privacy of other people’s lives would take a great deal of tact anywhere. For a Dutch photographer to have found her way into the intimate corners of Chinese lives must have taken more than that. China, for all its hospitality, can be an intensely private place.
It is traditionally a country of walled cities, walled palaces, walled gardens, and walled family compounds. The family is still the basic unit that dominates most Chinese lives.

And Bertien van Manen has penetrated those units, to show us how Chinese live, eat, touch, talk, and sleep in private. To have done this she must have been not only tactful, put persistant, curious and symphathetic. You can tell from her photographs that she was trusted. Even if she never sees them again, you feel that her subjects are her friends.

Bertien van Manen’s pictures do not have an overtly political message. She is an artist, not an activist. But the political history of China is visible in almost every photograph…”

Ian Buruma

  • East Wind West Wind
    Bertien van Manen
    De Verbeelding Publishers, 2001
    Book size: 20 x 25.5 cm
    Pages: 232 pages
    Language: English
    ISBN 90-74159-36-2

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