David Spindler on PBS’ Frontline

22 09 2009

Watch the interview here.

There is apparently no formula to becoming an expert on the Great Wall of China. David Spindler was a graduate student in Beijing back in the early 1990s, when, as a hobby, he began trekking the wall through its thousands of miles of nooks and crannies, and studying ancient documents to reveal its secrets.

In 2002, he left a lucrative career as a corporate consultant to become a full-time “wall scholar.”

Recently, he teamed up with photographer Jonathan Ball and set out on a mission — to take huge panoramic photos along the wall on the anniversaries and in the exact locations of historic Mongol and Manchu battles.

We spoke to him over web cam from Beijing on the eve of two exhibits of Spindler and Ball’s work opening in San Francisco and New York.


China’s Great Wall in SF Chronicle’s 96 Hours

22 09 2009

China’s Great Wall: The Forgotten Story was featured in last week’s 96 Hours section of the San Francisco Chronicle:

Photographer Jonathan Ball and historian David Spindler delve beyond the cliches and tourist traps to examine this architectural wonder in the context that first led to its construction. Spindler’s commentary and Ball’s large-scale panoramic photos, taken at the sites of 15th-17th century Mongol raids on the anniversaries of those events, offer an immersive perspective on history.

Opens 5:30-8 tonight. Through Oct. 22. 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri. 3a Gallery, 101 South Park, S.F. (415) 543-3347. www.mh-a.com/studio/gallery.

China’s Great Wall Comes to Bay Area

27 08 2009

Come check out China’s Great Wall: The Forgotten Story at the 3A Gallery in San Francisco’s artistic South of Market neighborhood beginning September 17th through October 22nd.

There will be a private viewing for the media from 4:00 to 5:30 pm on Thursday September 17th (click here to RSVP), followed by an opening reception for the general public from 5:30 – 8:00 pm.

China’s Great Wall: The Forgotten Story

20 08 2009

China’s Great Wall: The Forgotten Story documents the colorful and violent history of the Great Wall through enormous panoramic photographs. This project is a collaborative effort between Jonathan Ball, an Oakland-based photographer, and David Spindler, a historian living in Beijing who focuses on the Great Wall.

China's Great Wall

The photographs depict sites on the Wall where important Mongol and Manchu raids occurred in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, and capture the points of view of defenders or raiders.  They were taken on the anniversaries of the raids, as close as possible to the time of day when the fighting happened.  Ball made the photographs using a panoramic or a 4×5 camera using conventional film, then stitched the images together digitally.

Each photograph stands over three feet tall, and stretches from 9 feet to over 30 feet wide.  Spindler unearthed the vivid and colorful details of long-forgotten battle stories from Ming era (1368-1644) documents scattered throughout libraries in China, Taiwan and Japan.

Front Page Image 2

Exhibition images were culled from photographs taken during twenty days of shooting in 2007 and 2008 in nearly as many locations along eastern sections of the Great Wall.

The exhibition’s highlight includes a large, circular installation suspended from the ceiling that features a panoramic photograph inside.