Global Water Summit 2014: Swarovski Announces 'Living Yangtze', A Creative Collaboration With Eric Valli To 'Win Hearts Not Just Heads'

Nov 24, 2014, 19:05 ET from Swarovski

CHICAGO, Nov. 24, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Swarovski has announced a major creative collaboration with the distinguished film director and photographer Eric Valli which aims to use film as a positive medium to generate empathy and awareness about the importance of clean, sustainable water sources.

'Living Yangtze', a multi-media project which tells the stories of the communities living along the great Yangtze River, was previewed yesterday by Eric Valli at the closing session of the Nature Conservancy's Global Water Summit.

During a panel talk entitled "Entertainment as a Conservation Strategy", Valli argued that the best way of raising environmental awareness was to inspire new audiences with an appreciation of the beauty of our natural landscapes, not "with doomladen statistics".

"'Living Yangtze' started with a basic observation: as human beings we have a tendency to forget numbers, data and things we don't like to hear about," Valli told an audience of 400 scientists, practitioners, corporate leaders and policy makers at the Art Institute of Chicago's Rubloff Auditorium. "But we remember what emotionally touches us – beauty, tenderness, passion, and harmony – for the rest of our lives. So instead of bombarding people with data and gloomy statistics, we decided to do the opposite. We wanted to make them aware of the beauty of their own heritage and traditions; to make them proud; to motivate them to act rather than discouraging them with guilt."

The award-winning photographer was joined by film maker Jamie Redford and Producer Dave Allen in a panel discussion exploring the role of media and entertainment in "winning hearts, not just heads" by generating awareness and inspiring consumers to action around environmental issues like the importance of clean water. 

Swarovski commissioned Eric Valli to spend six months documenting the lives of communities around the locations of its Waterschools along the Yangtze River. The Swarovski Waterschool China is a not for profit organisation which has been working in the Yangtze basin since 2008. It is active in nine regions along the Yangtze from the source in the Tibetan plateau down to the river mouth were it flows into the Chinese sea. Working alongside the Shangri-La Institute and with the support of local governments and the Ministry of Education in Shanghai, the program teaches in 59 schools and will have reached 200,000 children by the end of 2014. Founded in Austria 15 years ago and now a global network located on some of the world's greatest rivers, Swarovski's Waterschools teach children and their families about the importance of clean, sustainable water sources through engaging images and storytelling.

Nadja Swarovski, Member of the Swarovski Executive Board, commented: "Our global water challenges call for creative solutions, but also relevant information for this pressing topic. We are therefore thrilled to collaborate with Eric Valli on this exciting project, which tells the uplifting story of communities living in harmony with their environment and their river.

"It was an abundance of fresh water that first drew our founder, Daniel Swarovski, to the Alpine valley where our company is still headquartered today. But water is not just a key element in our production, it also flows through the culture and philosophy of our business, and it inspired the Swarovski Waterschool program. We hope that Eric's beautiful images will bring to vivid life the urgent issues around our reliance on water, elevating the story of water through creativity."

Images from Living Yangtze by Eric Valli for Swarovski will be published in a book next year, accompanied by an exhibition of images and short films.


Notes to Editors:

Eric Valli
Renowned photographer and film director Eric Valli was born in 1952 in Dijon, eastern France. He originally trained as a cabinet-maker, but has spent most of his career as a geographical photographer. Since 1981 Eric has captured on camera some of the most inaccessible locations in the world, working for titles such as National Geographic, Life, GEO, Paris Match, Stern and Smithsonian magazines, and The Sunday Times of London.

Eric specializes in mountain scenery and is an expert on the Himalayas, in particular Nepal, Tibet and Afghanistan. In 1987, his photo story Honey Hunters – documenting the cliff-climbing Gurung tribesmen of west-central Nepal – won a World Press Award.In 1990 Eric and his Australian wife Diane Summers shot Shadow Hunters, which captures the gathering of birds' nests for soup in a vast cave in western Thailand. The film received an Academy Award nomination for best documentary. In 1999 he directed the adventure story Himalaya – a tale of survival in the mountain region – which became the first Nepalese film to receive an Academy Award nomination for best foreign film. Eric has published 14 books to date, including in 2006 The Sky Will Be My Roof, a memoir of adventure and travel. In total, his photography has been recognized with three World Press Awards. In addition he has shot commercial work for Hermes and Louis Vuitton. For his most recent project – a book and film about the Yangtze river in China, made in conjunction with Swarovski – Eric spent six months documenting life along the world's third largest waterway. An exhibition will accompany the launch in 2015.

Swarovski Waterschools
Water has always been a key element in the production of Swarovski crystal, but it also runs through the company's culture and philosophy, which from the earliest days 120 years ago demanded a respect for human and environmental values. The objectives of the Swarovski Waterschools are to create awareness of the fact that water is essential to our survival; to teach the principles of sustainable water management; and to provide clean drinking water and water sanitation in schools and surrounding communities where the Waterschool program is active.

Fifteen years ago the first Swarovski Waterschool was established on Austria's Inn River. Since then Swarovski has set up Waterschools around the globe on the world's greatest rivers – in India's Ganges Delta, on China's Yangtze River, in Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, and in the Amazon Forest of Brazil. The program has reached 200,000 children and their families and been taught in 2,655 schools worldwide. Around 1,470 teachers have been trained and 264,995 community members have been involved in various water projects.

Swarovski delivers a diverse portfolio of unmatched quality, craftsmanship, and creativity that goes beyond the manufacturing of crystal. Founded in 1895 in Austria, Swarovski designs, manufactures, and markets high-quality crystals, genuine gemstones and created stones, and finished products such as jewelry, accessories, and lighting. In addition, Swarovski Crystal Worlds was established as a unique venue dedicated to showcasing artistic interpretations of crystal. Swarovski Entertainment collaborates with established industry partners and exceptional talent to produce international feature films, while the Swarovski Foundation supports creativity and culture, promotes wellbeing, and conserves natural resources. Now run by the fifth generation of family members, Swarovski Crystal Business has a global reach with approximately 2,480 stores in around 170 countries, more than 24,000 employees, and revenue of about 2.33 billion euros in 2013. Together with its sister companies Swarovski Optik (optical devices) and Tyrolit (abrasives), Swarovski Crystal Business forms the Swarovski Group. In 2013, the Group generated revenue of about 3.02 billion euros and employed more than 30,000 people.

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