Nanjing Lu leaves nothing to the imagination, a capitalist monstrosity eating away at the very heart of China’s communist struggle. The Bund, Technology Park, People’s Park, modern Pudong and even the French quarter follow in its ravenous footsteps. It’s just not China, at least not the China I expected.
Yu Yuan... YuanBarnaby Jaco Skinner / Nikon D4 / 14 - 24 f2.8 / Shanghai
The Rose GardenBarnaby Jaco Skinner / Nikon D4 / 35 f1.4 / Shanghai
Yu Yuan bursts slowly at the seams as modern concrete gives way to Shanghai’s most revered of tourist attractions. Masses of international visitors spill out on to the small wooden walkways headlining the central plaza, with the garden entrance jammed with hordes of camera wielding Germans. Escaping quickly in to the covered alleyways behind, the savvy adventurer shoulders their backpack and heads for the tea room’s top floor, where money talks but space is plenty.
PudongBarnaby Jaco Skinner / Nikon D4 / 70 - 200 f2.8 / Shanghai
Heading away from tooting taxis and angry hordes of money-wielding tourists, I wander through the backstreets of central Shanghai, twisting and turning ever further from the glistening Metropolis and its Starbucks sheep.
The HuangpuBarnaby Jaco Skinner / Nikon D4 / 14 - 24 f2.8 / Shanghai
A slight but determined drizzle descends through the eerie yellow mist shrouding Pudong’s glistening heights. Bulbous drops fuse with the perilous waters of the Huangpu, violently churning and chopping as a billion white crests displace tarpaulin-covered barges to safe harbour down stream. A sand storm hailing from the dry deserts of Xin Jiang silently drapes the cityscape like a veil, Shanghai’s famous baby blue lost through impenetrable tones of mustard and coffee. Black umbrellas burst to life as eager tourists choose to brave the gritty weather, posing for photos against the apocalyptic background of wet concrete and sandy glass, grinning white teeth shimmering through noxious mists like Cheshire cats.
CentralBarnaby Jaco Skinner / Nikon D4 / 14 - 24 f2.8 / Shanghai
JellyfishBarnaby Jaco Skinner / Nikon D4 / 50 f1.4 / Shanghai
As one wonders away from the metropolis, tall glass buildings give way to low-rise suburbia. Street life builds, just a few side stalls selling puppies and freshly cut pineapples at first, then chatty hair salons and busy cafes pop up, carpenters tapping mindlessly as antiques traders scream through megaphones. Suddenly you’re center-stage in an unfinished Sino-Shakespearean masterpiece. In Shanghai, the old China exists by thriving at street-level.
1933Barnaby Jaco Skinner / Nikon D4 / 14 - 24 f2.8 / Shanghai
#6Barnaby Jaco Skinner / Nikon D4 / 70 - 200 f2.8 / Shanghai
Hairdressers and butchers deftly slice away as if the same, fish mongers man-handle yesterday’s catch from shallow coffins, dropping them on ubiquitous scale-encrusted wooden chopping blocks, hacking and scraping until ready for lunch.
YellowBarnaby Jaco Skinner / Nikon D4 / 14 - 24 f2.8 / Shanghai
Toads hang in nets, gerbils share tanks with terrapins, pigeons display plumage to the highest bidder, and desperate crabs routinely make a bid for freedom. Visceral sound and colour erupt from all directions, crimson-red blood sailing down chocked gutters, carrying with it glistening scales and entrails of all descriptions.
Hanging GardensBarnaby Jaco Skinner / Nikon D4 / 70 - 200 f2.8 / Shanghai
Quacking ducks are plucked from tiny cages and plunged headfirst into boiling water, their screech only drowned out by classic romantic ballads ejecting from a neighbouring speaker, volume at 11, naturally.
Street LevelBarnaby Jaco Skinner / Nikon D4 / 70 - 200 f2.8 / Shanghai
A Missing BarBarnaby Jaco Skinner / Nikon D4 / 70 - 200 f2.8 / Shanghai
Happily no one seems to notice a lone wanderer, so sidestepping a few unidentifiable objects I make my way past squirming shells, blue lobsters, hairy crabs and their less-hairy cousins tied up into neat little bundles ready to drop in the pot. Steam and incense bellow from cook-pots and cloud my already dazzled vision making me step in something so viscous it almost takes my shoe off.
Exhausted, I find myself off the main thoroughfare and sit at a small table, order a cold Tsingtao with noodles and contently watch the chaos unfold for an hour or two. Everything ticking along just like clockwork.