Swarovski’s Photographic Project: Living Yangtze

Painter - Swarovski - Eric Valli
Painter – Swarovski – Eric Valli

Swarovski has announced a major creative collaboration with the distinguished photographer Eric Valli. It aims to use film as a positive medium to generate empathy and awareness about the importance of clean, sustainable water sources.

‘Living Yangtze’, a photographic project which tells the stories of the communities living along the great Yangtze River, was previewed Sunday by Eric Valli at the closing session of the Nature Conservancy’s Global Water Summit.

During a panel talk entitled “Entertainment as a Conservation Strategy,” Valli argued that the best way of raising environmental awareness was to inspire new audiences with an appreciation of the beauty of our natural landscapes, not “with doomladen statistics”.

“‘Living Yangtze’ started with a basic observation: as human beings we have a tendency to forget numbers, data and things we don’t like to hear about,” Valli told an audience of 400 scientists, practitioners, corporate leaders and policy makers at the Art Institute of Chicago’s Rubloff Auditorium.

“But we remember what emotionally touches us – beauty, tenderness, passion – for the rest of our lives. So instead of bombarding people with data and gloomy statistics, we decided to do the opposite. We wanted to make them aware of the beauty of their own heritage and traditions; to make them proud; to motivate them to act rather than discouraging them with guilt.”

The award-winning photographer was joined by film maker Jamie Redford and Producer Dave Allen in a panel discussion exploring the role of media and entertainment in “winning hearts, not just heads” by generating awareness and inspiring consumers to action around environmental issues like the importance of clean water.

Swarovski Waterschool - Eric Valli
Swarovski Waterschool – Eric Valli

Swarovski commissioned Eric Valli to spend six months documenting the lives of communities around the locations of its Waterschools along the Yangtze river.

The Swarovski Waterschool China is a not for profit organisation which has been working in the Yangtze basin since 2008. It is active in nine regions along the Yangtze from the source in the Tibetan plateau down to the river mouth were it flows into the Chinese sea.

Working alongside the Shangri-La Institute and with the support of local governments and the Ministry of Education in Shanghai, the program teaches in 59 schools and will have reached 200,000 children by the end of 2014.

Founded in Austria 15 years ago and now a global network located on some of the world’s greatest rivers, Swarovski’s Waterschools teach children and their families about the importance of clean, sustainable water sources through engaging images and storytelling.

Nadja Swarovski, Member of the Swarovski Executive Board, commented: “Our global water challenges call for creative solutions, so we are thrilled and honoured to collaborate with Eric Valli on this exciting project, which tells the uplifting story of communities living in harmony with their environment and their river.”

TEA - Swarovski - Eric Valli
TEA – Swarovski – Eric Valli

Images from Living Yangtze by Eric Valli for Swarovski will be published in a book next year, accompanied by an exhibition of images and short films.

Renowned photographer and film director Eric Valli was born in 1952 in Dijon, eastern France. He originally trained as a cabinet-maker, but has spent most of his career as a geographical photographer.

Since 1981 Eric has captured on camera some of the most inaccessible locations in the world, working for titles such as National Geographic, Life, GEO, Paris Match, Stern and Smithsonian magazines, and The Sunday Times of London.

Founded in 1895 in Austria, Swarovski designs, manufactures, and markets high-quality crystals, genuine gemstones and created stones, and finished products such as jewelry, accessories, and lighting.

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Rakesh Raman