Archive for June, 2010


Crossing together

They were standing at the traffic light. Looking right, then left.

When the green man started flashing, the old man gripped the woman’s limp hand and they picked up their pace across the street. She tried her best to keep up so her companion instinctively slowed down. It never occured to them that traffic would wait for them, because they knew, like everyone else, it rarely does in Shanghai.

June 2010


Walling the site

I stood completely disoriented in a vast track of demolished land running along Gongping Lu (公平路) and Tangshan Lu (唐山路).

I was retracing an old longtang neighborhood but found myself circling back to the same parking lot. It was common for flattened neighborhoods to be converted into parking spaces at RMB10 an hour, a temporary albeit profitable solution to utilize fallowed concrete spaces prior to actual construction 

Shoddy looking walls were often erected around construction sites to contain the dust and from prying eyes.

The wall surrounding this plot of land was almost complete, save for a gaping hole in the north end.

There, I found some men coating the wall with a fresh slab of concrete. From Subei (苏北), short for northern Jiangsu, they often worked 7 days a week. “Otherwise, how do you get this?” a worker said to me with a glint in his eye, motioning money with his finger tips.

It turned out that their main jobs were to build temporary walls for construction sites. In fact, they were responsible for much of the walling of major sites in Hongkou for the past year. 

Currently, they were preparing the site that will soon house one of many metro stops along Shanghai’s 12th subway line, steadily making the city’s subway system one of the largest in the world. I had earlier documented the demolition of another neighborhood for a separate Line 12 stop last year.

I squatted with the workers under the beating sun, watching them paint deft strokes of concrete while puffing away on cheap cigarettes. It was hard not to notice their leathery skins which were dark and shiny from hours under the sun. After sharing some waxberries (杨梅) I had on hand, I departed, leaving them to earn another day’s wages.

June 2010


Nanchuks practice in the alleys

The days are growing hot in Shanghai, but not yet sweltering. City folk have graduated to short sleeves and the occasional shorts. We’ve yet to reach the state of ubiquitous shirtless bellies but give us a few more weeks, we’ll get there.

Strolling in the markets, a friend and I spotted a young man experimenting with a pair of nunchuks in the alleys. His moves were simple and almost hesitant, yet smooth enough to avoid bruising himself.  He had a look of intense concentration, determined to get his craft right.

“You think that if I photographed him, he’d hit me with his nunchuks?” I remarked to my friend. He laughed and thought probably so.

Risking a beating, I swiftly snapped. Spotting me, the young man slowed down and almost hit himself. A shy grin spread across his face.

“You into kung fu and stuff?” I asked, returning his grin.

Laughing, he kept going, showing off a few simple moves, and replied, “No, no. Just learning blindly (瞎学) on my own.”

I guess everyone needs a hobby. Wax on, wax off.

June 2010


Portrait of a Young Man

A portrait of a young man I stopped in the street. He was in a group and they kept walking as I asked for a shot. It took 10 paces to convince them (not too shabby of an elevator speech, eh?).

One of his friends kept mocking him as I shot it, and kept walking … right into a telephone pole.

So there.

April 2010. Taken in the similar vein as my other portrait of a construction worker, which remains one of my favorites.

As always, if you’re looking for wonderful work on portraits of strangers, I highly recommend the ever-talented Danny St.

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June 2010
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