Taking its name from the nickname for lingzhi, the revered medicinal mushroom in Asia, Samuel Bradley and Kat Chan’s debut book Immortal Mushroom is a collaborative exploration of Shangri-La, a remote city in northern Yunnan, China’s most culturally biodiverse province.
Referred to locally as the Wild West, Shangri-La’s high altitudes of over 9,800 ft and often imposingly grandiose landscapes can seem impenetrable. While positioning itself as a travel destination after being renamed in 2001 by the government after the fictional paradise in James Hilton’s novel The Lost Horizon, Shangri-La remains remarkably unknown.
Bradley’s perspective-bending still life experiments with fruits and vegetables are interspersed with unexplained local characters – some presenting their offerings to camera while others inhabit the edges of frame or the far-away distances of sweeping, fantastical vistas. Shunning a traditional documentary approach, Bradley depicts Shangri-La as a surreal, technicolour stage upon which inanimate objects, people and landscapes perform for the camera.
Chan’s essays and poetry are a guide to the uncharted photographic narrative, offering a mix of explanation, history and cultural insight into a China we are rarely shown in the mainstream media. An interview with Professor Zhao Kaicun illuminates the philosophy of Traditional Chinese Medicine, challenging common assumptions about what it is, and defining a modern approach to the ancient practice.