March 26, 2007

Acclaimed photographer to lecture at SIUC

by Pete Rosenbery


Caption follows story

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Acclaimed photographer Steven Benson will present a lecture at Southern Illinois University Carbondale on his photo essay documenting China's Yangtze River Valley.

Benson's lecture is set for 4:30 p.m., Friday, March 30, in Lawson Hall, room 101. The lecture is open to the public; admission is free. SIUC's Global Media Research Center and the Department of Cinema & Photography, which are part of the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts, are hosting the event.


Media Advisory

Reporters and photographers are welcome to cover the lecture. Benson is also available to meet with faculty and students during the day on March 30. Contact Laura H. Germann at the Global Media Research Center at 618/453-6876 or email her at for more information.


Benson's lecture will offer perspective on his 2006 photo essay, "The Cost of Power in China: The Three Gorges Dam and the Yangtze River Valley." The photo essay documents the Yangtze River Valley — now under water in a 400-mile reservoir behind China's Three Gorges Dam.

The photographs became historic images in June 2003 when the reservoir filled to a depth of 425 feet. It is projected that the dam — which is 1.3 miles long and 610 feet high — will ultimately force two million people from their homes, demolishing 13 cities, 140 towns and 1,352 villages.

In his artist statement, Benson notes his goal "was to create a lasting photographic document of a part of the planet destined to disappear; and to honor the people of this mythic valley that has inspired poets, artists and philosophers for countless centuries. It is also my hope that this body of work will function as a warning to future generations."

The reservoir will also cover 8,000 known archaeological sites, 250,000 acres of fertile farmland, and 1,600 factories "which have been burying toxic materials in the ground for the past 50 years." There are fears that radioactive waste could destroy aquatic life in a region where 75 million people depend on the river for fishing and farming, Benson wrote.

Selections from Benson's photo essay are on display in Gallery 1101 in the Department of Cinema & Photography. Benson will be available to sign copies of his book after the presentation.

Benson earned a bachelor's degree in photography in 1981 from the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit, Mich., and his master's degree in photography in 1983 from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

To view Benson's work, visit his Web site at

Benson is the recipient of three Creative Artist Grants from the Michigan Council for the Arts, and a NEA/ArtsMidwest Fellowship. His work is represented in numerous permanent collections, including Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris; the Detroit Institute of Arts; Museum of Fine Art, Houston, Texas; Detroit Historical Museum; Portland Art Museum; and Musee Francais de la Photography, in Bievre, France.

Caption: Raining along the Daning River — Acclaimed photographer Steven Benson chronicles China’s Yangtze River Valley in 1999 before a reservoir filled an area of the planet that no longer exists — except underwater — behind the country’s Three Gorges dam. Benson will provide his perspective of his photo essay, “The Cost of Power in China: The Three Gorges Dam and the Yangtze River Valley,” at 4:30 p.m., Friday, March 30, in Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Lawson Hall, room 101.

Photo provided