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Yan Wang Preston is a visual artist interested in landscape representation, identity, migration, and the environment. With photography as her primary medium, her solo, collaborative, and participatory projects employ still and moving images, sound, performance, installation, and the artist book to explore complex ideas from multiple angles.

Wang Preston’s practice is characterised by rigorous research processes led by her committed embodiment within the land to gain first-hand, skin-to-skin-like understanding. Her projects are demanding physically, intellectually, and emotionally. For her first major project, Mother River (2010–2014), she photographed the entire 6,211 km Yangtze River in China at precise 100 km intervals on a large-format plate camera. Such a monumental undertaking enabled her to provide a multilayered, vernacular view of contemporary China while subverting the existing hierarchies within the photographic representation of the Yangtze River since 1842. Her second project, Forest (2010–2017), investigated the complexities, hopes, and failures of constructed urban nature in China by following the adaptation journeys of transplanted old trees. Since 2020, Wang Preston has shifted her gaze from China to the UK, where she currently resides. With Love. From an Invader (2020–2021) saw her opening her research by walking to and photographing the same rhododendron bush on the South Pennine Moors every other day for an entire year. The project produced a four-panel audiovisual installation with a 38-minute soundtrack written by her collaborator, Monty Adkins, presenting visual and sonic ‘data’ in defence of the rhododendron habitat as part of Britain’s recombinant and cosmopolitan ecologies.

Wang Preston’s projects are internationally and critically acclaimed. She was the recipient of the inaugural RPS Award for Environmental Responsibility in 2023. She won 1st Prize in Professional Landscape, Sony World Photography Awards (2019); 1st Prize in Professional Commission, Syngenta Photography Prize (2017); and the Shiseido Photographer Prize at the Three Shadows Photography Annual Award in Beijing, China (2016). She was one of the Hundred Heroines awarded by the Royal Photographic Society in 2018.

Her solo exhibitions have been presented at leading public institutions such as the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, UK (2022); LOOK Photo Biennale, Liverpool, UK (2019); Xposure Photography Festival, UAE (2018); Photo Museum Ireland (2017); Chongqing China Three Gorges Museum (2015); and the Swatch Pavilion, 56th Venice Biennale (2015). Her work has been featured in numerous group exhibitions, including Energy: Sparks from the Collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum (2023–2024); The Time is Right, Jeddah Photo 2022; Ten by Ten at FotoFest, Houston, USA (2020); Sony World Photography Awards Touring Exhibition (2019); Forty Years of Contemporary Chinese Photography, OCAT Shenzhen, China (2018); and Dubai Photo (2016). Her first solo exhibition in London, Yan Wang Preston: With Love, was presented at Messums London in 2022.

Wang Preston has published two monographs: Mother River (Berlin: Hatje Cantz, 2018) and Forest (Berlin: Hatje Cantz, 2018). Her photographs and writing have been published in numerous newspapers and journals, such as The Guardian, Irish Times, Architecture Review, Asian Review, De Correspondent, Granta, and the Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art. 

Her work is in numerous collections, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, USA; National Trust Collections, UK; Wuhan Art Museum, China; Syngenta AG; and Swatch Art Peace Hotel, Shanghai and is held by private collectors worldwide. 

Wang Preston was born in Henan Province in China in 1976, to a family of medical doctors. She gained her BSc in Clinical Medicine at Fudan University, Shanghai, in 1999 and subsequently qualified as a practising anaesthetist. She emigrated to the UK in 2005 and changed her career to photography. In 2009 she gained an MA in Visual Arts from Leeds Beckett University. In 2018 she was awarded a PhD in Photography by the University of Plymouth. Alongside her artistic career, she lectures at the University of Huddersfield. She lives in West Yorkshire, UK, with her husband and daughter.