Not a work of literature in any real sense, but it is still
difficult to imagine that this beautiful and sometimes stunning collection won’t
appeal to most people on some level. The
elegant foreword and introduction aside, this book is in fact almost entirely a
showcase of photography curated by a talented and shrewd-eyed life
observers. The 100 or so photographs range
from the stylish to the sombre, the exciting to the calm, and the most simple
of setpiece to the cleverest of visual effect.
Yet all are, to some degree, mundane.
Normal. Everyday. And therein lies their beauty. The good people of Shanghai are shown going
about their business in all walks of life, in all demographics. The pictures, not spectacular in their
sensationalism, are exquisite in their normalcy. The quality, of course, is without
question. These photographers, however
many there are contributing to this collection, are all quite simply true
professionals and true artists. This the
images all have in common.
But it is not the only thing. Most of all, what each and every one of these
photographs has in common is love. Love
for the country, culture and people of Shanghai. This book forms part of a series of such photographic
showcases each paying tribute to a specific context, in this case this glamorous
and populous city, and as such it is in its nature to be something of a love
letter to the place. And that indeed it
is. These photos are about the faces,
the lives and the stories within them.
They are not holiday snaps, or everyday tourist journal; these are
poignant moments capturing the everyday business of the locals, in high definition,
the moments picked sublimely to raise a question in the viewer – that being: what
is this person’s story? Like a photographer
in any natural habitat, the moment is awaited, patiently, then stolen and
frozen in time. It asks that question with
style, the only hint of any leading of the viewer’s imagination being the
captions, the quotes and the proverbs which pepper the gallery. But there is no unhappiness here, just pure, unapologetic
affection. Perhaps sad, in some ways,
that the latter photographs are characterized by reminders of the Covid
pandemic, but in some ways that also tells a story of its own; an overall
underlying context reminding us that although the times change, the people don’t.
This book will most appeal to photographers, both
professional and amateur, and those who yearn for Shanghai, either as an aspiration
or from nostalgia. Most of all, though,
it is a quality curated collection and a genuine showcase for its contributors. A quite lovely book, and a bit of an
oxymoron, in that it offers us genuine escapism by sharing real life.
In : Book Reviews