Disappearing Shanghai


Howard French and Qiu Xiaolong have collaborated to produce a splendid book: Disappearing Shanghai: Photographs and Poems of an Intimate Way of Life. French was the New York Times Bureau Chief in Shanghai from 2003 to 2008, during which time he took the photos in the book. Xiaolong is a native of Shanghai, known for his “Inspector Chen” novels set in that city, and holds a Ph.D. in Asian Studies from Washington University in St. Louis.

From the Introduction:

The photographs contained in this collection are the product of roughly five years of work, of walking the streets of central Shanghai, of lingering for four, six, or eight hours at a time in the half-doxen neighborhoods that came to captivate me, and in its final phase, of knocking on the doors of strangers and bidding myself into the privacy of their homes.

These images constitute an attempt to see the rest of that city in its final moments. This is the city of ordinary people, of both old Shanghai residents and the more recent arrivers who have streamed to the city in the reform era. They are dawn by the same thing as those who came 100 years earlier: dreams of prosperity.

This is a city of workers and those in search of work. It is a city of retirees and of the aged. Most of all, it is a city of disappearing neighborhoods and of their residents about to be flung to the winds as Shanghai reinvents itself.

Permanence is not a feature of our world, but with my cameras, I tried to plant myself in this special moment wanting to preserve some sense of it for the future, hoping to offer what the shutter and lens can sometimes yield: stillness and clarity before the disappearance of what can be seen no longer.

[Howard French]

For those who have witness the remarkable transformation of Shanghai over the past decade, this book is a treasure of words and images.

~ by raysparrowe on March 23, 2013.

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