Zeng Nian's work combines the testimony of the photoreporter with the beauty of plastic photography. His images are tinged with nostalgia, lucid, sometimes hard but always full of humanity. His almost pictorial photographic compositions (his father was a professor of painting at the Institute of Fine Arts in Nanjing) are inspired by Chinese printmaking, by their panoramic format which underlines the vertical or horizontal lines of his clichés, and also by Chinese landscape painting, in which the elements of nature blend with great harmony.
Zeng Nian reflects the social and cultural realities of a changing China. He shows inlas-ably scenes of daily life in his country of origin. He also photographed the Three Gorges Dam for nearly twenty years. The Three Gorges are made up of three narrow parades, dug for 70 million years through the Daba Mountains, in which the dangerous flows of China’s longest river, the Yangtze River, sinuate. For thousands of years, these landscapes, celebrated by many artists, have symbolized the richness and romanticism of Chinese civilization. In 1994, the Chinese government decided to build the world's largest dam in this area. Today, a technological feat has been achieved, but one and a half million people have been displaced, towns and villages have been engulfed under a 54,000 km2 lake, and the site is forever transformed..
Zeng Nian was born in 1954 in Wuxi City, Jiangsu Province, China. In 1971, he was assigned to the administration of the port of Nanjing as a seaman. In 1981, he took a sabbatical period and cycled to Tibet for six months. In 1985, Zeng Nian joined forces with Sipa Press. In 1994, he joined the Paris-based agency Contact Press Images. In 1996, at the request of the New York Times, he began his flagship series devoted to the construction of the Three Gorges Dam in China, showing the valley engulfed under water with its heritage treasures gone forever. In 2000, he joined the Gamma agency. His photos and reports are regularly published in the most prestigious French, Chinese and international magazines including Paris Match, Le Figaro Magazine, Géo France and Germany, New York Times Magazine, The Independent, National Geographic Magazine. . . He won several awards including the prestigious World Press Photo in the Arts Stories category.