The idea of this series came to its author, a Chinese photographer Yang Yi, in 2005 under the influence of one event – a construction of the Three Gorges Dam. The thing is that the construction was attended by flooding the vast territory which also included Kaixian – the hometown of the photographer. This event became a source of Yang Yi`s constant agitation and once even came to him in a rather strange dream.
Yang Yi: ‘One morning, I don’t remember when, I woke up in a sweat, my heart pounding in alarm. I was left only with a vague memory. In my dream, I appear, clothed; I come and go along these familiar alleys. I revisit my old school, the dazzle of lights emanating from the cinema, the riverside where I used to swim, the rooftops where I once went to get a breath of fresh air, the winding pathways… all is in darkness, unattended, there are no friends or relatives to be found anywhere. Where do all of these bubbles and floating objects come from? It becomes difficult to breathe, I fail to grasp anything, I scream but no sound can be heard…’
In 2005, Yang Yi took his camera and went to Kaixian to photograph it. By that time, the town had not yet been completely flooded, and people relocated. Having taken a number of photos, the author then digitally processed them. As a result, the town was plunged by Yanh Yi into the water along with its inhabitants, leaving them to go about their daily business. Such an original move made people on the photographs look like wandering ghosts in the dead city. Later, the Austrian photographer Andreas Franke applied the similar technique on a series Vandenberg: Live below the Surface, which we covered earlier.
This project is certainly very personal for the author. ‘I don’t intend to dwell on the meaning to be found in my photography,’ said Yang Yi, ‘What is important for me is that I came from that town. It is about all that we have in common there: our accent, our spicy coriander, the nod we give each other, a friendly signal to say hello when we pass one another on the street, these streets that we have traveled alongside our ancestors, that have herded us along together… this series was created for all of that. It will be my personal memoir!’
In 2009, the last inhabitants of Kaixian were relocated and the town with a history of about 1800 years has completely submerged.