CHINA: The Other Side of Shanghai

  • CHINA:  The Other Side of Shanghai
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I had occasion to spend a few weeks in Shanghai during visits to China in the period 2008-09. While there, the focus of my photographic interest was the large scale process of destruction and transformation taking place in the areas bordering Suzhou Creek in the north of the city. A major gentrification project was underway, encompassing a cleanup of the notoriously polluted river and the building of luxury riverfront high rise condos and greenbelts. This required the obliteration of traditional working class neighborhoods and the displacement of many longtime poor residents. Some blocks were rubble while others were in the process of rebuilding. Scattered everywhere were dilapidated and abandoned structures that had contained factories, shops, and residences, now in varying states of collapse and some of them now home to squatters. A project rich in social and visual potential presented itself to the street photographer in this moment of urban transition, one I found far more compelling than the glamour and excess of the Bund district and the Pudong skyline. The scene was changing literally before my eyes, and sometimes a street or neighborhood was barely recognizable upon a return visit after just a few months’ absence. This portfolio, then, is a record of arrested moments in that tumultuous process of economic and social change.