March 21, 2013
by Bruno Barbey
When I first visited Shanghai in 1973 , the city had only three French residents; a businessman who was honorary consul; a banker and a young teacher doing his cooperative service. It was the end of the Cultural Revolution and the resulting tragedies. My guide was a Red Guard. At that period China was close to foreigners. I was covering the official visit of president Georges Pompidou and was thusable to prolong my visa. I had the opportunity to get close to Chou-En-Lai who was very old but still radiated a strong presence.
During my second visit in 1980 the people still wore the blue work coats with the Mao collar. One hardly ever saw couple holding hands in the street, very few cars in the street, the majority of the people got around on bicycles. A part of the Pudong area was still being farmed. It was only in 1992 that Shanghai began to take its place as a first-class world economic capital. The message launched by Deng Xiaoping to the Chinese “enrich your selves” was perfectly received. The French community today, with over 10,000 people, is the largest of the foreign communities.
In April 2010 I photographed the preparations for the universal exhibition; the huge Chinese undertaking that would bring to reality their dreams of greatness. Tens of thousands of workers labored to complete these preparations for the million expected visitors.
In Pudong, within just 10 years, so many skyscrapers have risen thus giving Shangai the appearance of an Asiatic New York; also, the architectural and urban records have been surpassed.
Finally in October 2010, I photographed the universal exhibition and its millions of visitors. I also strolled through the old quarters and the “Hutong”, the small streets full of life and bordered by low houses. Alas, these quarters are being destroyed to make room for the huge impersonal skyscrapers.
I’M STILL WORKING IN SHANGAI WICH I PHOTOGRAPHED ALSO IN 2011 AND 2012