I just got back from spending a little over a week in Shanghai, China, where I made a friend who told me about Photography of China – a website featuring interesting and beautiful bodies of photo work portraying China and Chinese culture. It was while browsing the site that I came across the remarkable work of French photographer Alain Delorme who, during a 44-day art residency in Shanghai, realised a series of photographs called Totems where he shows bike peddlers transporting unrealistically large loads of goods.


In an interview with Slate.com he states “Totems are usually considered special symbols with spiritual significance: Here, they can illustrate how objects are worshipped by consumer society—specifically, objects that are often ‘Made in China. The migrant seems, at first, almost like a hero for being able to carry such an impressive pile. But soon, we get the feeling that the objects almost swallow him, and that he’s submerged by the multiplication of the same object—as consumers often are.”

What he is hinting at is the incredible speed at which China is currently growing into a country led by consumption and growth. Walls are as omnipresent in this series as are skyscrapers – both carrying symbolic value relevant to this day and age, especially with regard to the ever increasing gap between the rich and the poor and the burden that this level of consumerism is on “the small man”.



To see all of the 18 images from this series simply visit Delerme’s website.

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Since this subject is fresh on my mind I would like to relate this story: On one of my last days in Shanghai I walked around the neighborhood I was staying in – a local neighborhood, yet not far from the Bund, the epicentre of Shanghai Grandeur and high life. One minute I was exited to finally have found a buzzing, authentic neighboorhood with plenty of the street food stalls, weird smells and loud noises – not a single tourist in sight. I had been missing “the real China” while in Shanghai so this was a wonderful find to me. I continued walked a few more blocks when I hit a main road. On the other side they were building and a large banner proclaimed that a new luxury hotel would soon stand where this construction site now was. It was obvious that this neighborhood would not survive any such development and after some talks with the locals (with the help of a translator) I learned that people were expecting to be moved.

Coincidentally I took a photo of a bike peddler in front of this very construction site:


I’d love to hear your opinion on all this, especially from those of you who have already been to China and Shanghai in particular. Where is China going? Will it be swallowed whole by capitalism? Do skyscrapers kill culture?