Veteran photographer turns focus on Songjiang
Photographer Chen Haiwen once again turns his camera on Shanghai after 20 years, and this time he focuses on the city's cultural origin Songjiang District.
"It's a huge surprise to me that Songjiang has changed so dramatically over the decades. It's no longer the place I used to know," he said.
Chen, 64, made a splash in art circles through his series "Shanghai" 20 years ago. He took pictures of more than 2,000 old Shanghai factories, documenting their ups and downs in the city's urban development. "It's been my lifelong mission to chronicle Shanghai's growth and transformation with images," the veteran lensman pointed out. "Now it's time for me to look back at the city again."
Songjiang is one very important stop in his photographic project. But when he zooms in on the suburban district, the stereotypes he had about the place are smashed. "Songjiang is more than rice paddies, watertowns and brick houses. It's ancient and traditional, but it's young and modern at the same time," he noted.
The place's past, present and future are kept between the shutter clicks. He photographs Guangfulin Cultural Relics Park in the golden twilight, an old craftsman making a straw dragon, the busy work scenes in high-tech companies, and the slow-paced local life in the back lanes. He even drove two hours to snap the moment when two tramcars, Songjiang's iconic transport, met each other in front of a bustling shopping square.
The visual impact is the first thing that catches the photographer's eyes. He uses drones to take aerial pictures of the London-themed Thames Town, the Pit Hotel built 88 meters below the ground of an abandoned quarry, and the golf courses. "When I was working in Thames Town, I sometimes felt like I was walking in Richmond on the real Thames, London," Chen said.
He also captures how ordinary people live. One of Chen's favorite works is a snapshot that depicts locals having afternoon tea in the 500-year-old Prime Minister's Mansion. The modern lifestyle echoes with the traditional Chinese architecture behind, which unveils a new aesthetic scene in the picture.
What astonishes Chen most is the futuristic vibe in ancient Songjiang. He and his team ventured into high-tech companies and young start-ups. "I felt the great energy of these young people, who're positive, self-assertive and ambitious," he said about the days spent at Giant Network, an online game developer based in Songjiang.
In another photo, two rainbows meet in the middle of the sky above Songjiang University Town, like a bridge linking the district's past, present and future.