Ballads of Shanghai: Graham Fink

Now complete with glimmering steel structures like its “vertical city,” the 2,073′ Shanghai Tower, along with a growing population of around 24 million, it’s been a few decades of major change for Shanghai. Its transformation is perhaps most present in some viral images from a few years ago that show the city’s Pudong financial district, Shanghai’s “Manhattan,” contrasting how it looked in 1990 with how it looked 20 years later.

In a symbolically representative area of the city, the paradigm of what a future-city is supposed to look like, it highlights the intense growth of the area’s Supertall skyscrapers, like the distinct Oriental Pearl Tower where once there stood paddy fields.

Down on the ground, things look very different, as the city’s architectural heritage is wiped clean to make way for the new. At ground-level there’s rubble, demolition, crumbling concrete, the messy foundations of this gleaming futurism. In an exhibition, Ballads of Shanghai, which opens today at the Riflemaker gallery in Soho, London, photographer Graham Fink puts on display his last five years documenting these sites.

Capturing the changing pace of the city through these “‘exchange sites,” where the past develops into the future, they’re also an ode to the personal and the everyday, the lives and stories of the people who have made way for China’s building boom. Fragments of the lives are caught amongst the sea of rubble, from the graffiti artists who use the derelict buildings for their art, to the possessions and objects left behind by former residents.

They’ll soon be gone from Shanghai, but will linger on in Fink’s photos. The Creators Project emailed some questions to the photographer to find out about the series, his time spent in the country, and the changes afoot there.


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