Huangshan, (literally ‘Yellow Mountain’) in Anhui Province, is one of China’s most important tourist attractions. A range of mountains consisting of 72 granite peaks, the Mount Huangshan Scenic Area attracts over 2 million visitors per annum ranking it amongst the top 5 tourist destinations in China. It has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its scenery and role as a habitat for rare and threatened species. The World Heritage Site covers a core area of 154 square km and a buffer zone of 142 square km.
Known to the Chinese as ‘the number one mountain under heaven’, Huangshan has inspired centuries of Chinese painters, poets and scholars. Its iconic beauty ranks it with the Yangtze River and the Great Wall as one of the most potent cultural and spiritual symbols of China. It is a ‘sister national park’ of Yosemite National Park in the US, and ‘sister mountain’ of the Jungfrau in Switzerland.
The Mount Huangshan Scenic Area is privately owned and managed by the ‘Huangshan Tourism & Development Company Ltd‘ and is listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. 51.5% of its shares are held by Chinese and foreign investors, the remainder being owned by the local government of the nearby city of Tunxi. China’s decades of rapid economic reform and the unwillingness of central government to allocate money and resources to such areas – has in part led to this process of privatization.
A Statement from Jon Wyatt
As with much of my work this project is shot in such a way as to deliberately limit the viewer’s engagement with the photos. This seemingly backwards approach – almost pushing the viewer away – is meant to mirror the lack of connection, our detachment, from the physical landscape. And ironically, it’s this lack of connection that may be the last best hope for the preservation of these vulnerable ecosystems.
I refer to the work as ‘occluded’ landscapes meaning ‘to cause to become closed’.
To recreate this detachment I reveal no horizon line in the work, offer minimal foreground detail and often obscure the subject with clouds or encroaching darkness. Immersive and claustrophobic, all documentary sense of ‘place’ is removed. With no sign of humanity, the viewer is disoriented and struggles to grasp the scale of the landscape. Denied reference points, their gaze is roving and undirected within the image. The viewer is distanced, their engagement with the image limited. Finally, accompanying text – shown after the images have been seen – is used to explicitly redefine the true context of the work.
For more information about the photographer, visit www.jonwyatt.co.uk