1st Place, 'To the South of the Colourful Clouds' by Yan Wang Preston
The series depicts the otherworldly “ecology recovery” landscape in Haidong Development Zone in Dali, Yunnan Province, China. Here, a small rural area is being urbanised systematically to create “an international leisure town and an ecology model town.” In doing so, the topsoil of the entire area is replaced by a type of red, semi-artificial soil, which forms the base for introduced, mostly non-indigenous plants, including thousands of mature trees. Meanwhile, green plastic netting is used to cover everything unappealing to the eye, from construction waste to disused quarries. The town’s objective here has shifted from an “ecological” concern to a cosmetic one of trying to be visually green. The images are part of an eight-year project “Forest” (2010-2017), for which the photographer investigates the politics of recreating forests and “natural” environments in new Chinese cities.