Monday, 23 April 2018

The Longtangs of Shànghǎi | Street Photography


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Taking advantage of being in Shanghai to give a 3-hour photo talk on travel photography at the well-known IG (Imaging Group) Photography Gallery, followed by a day long street photography workshop for 10 local photographers (and a subsequent photo critique), I was able to indulge in some street photography of my own...either alone or with a Chinese friend.

I naturally gravitated to the neighborhoods that still had the traditional narrow alleys where the less fortunate Shanghainese families still lived...a world apart from the shiny new areas where the 小资 (xiǎozī – 'little capitalists') lived, worked and shopped. By the way, modern Shanghai is lightyears ahead of New York City in terms of infrastructure, cleanliness, transportation and overall efficiency...and its subway system is as good as Tokyo's.


The narrow and tightly-packed alleys that escaped demolition in some Shanghai neighborhoods are called longtangs (弄堂, lòngtáng). The homes/structures lining these narrow alleys are usually two or three stories high, almost cutting off the sunlight from the lower mazes.

Most of the photographs in the gallery were shot from the hip as I wanted to capture candid expressions of people who populate these alleys. While they're not hostile by any means, those who live in well-known alleys have had their fill of tourists who brandish cameras or cellphones to take pictures of them; hence my decision of being circumspect in my photography.