I think it was a Saturday, in Shanghai, by night, as usual… except a worldwide event quietly advertised by the local news. That night, as responsible citizens, we should save the planet and switch of our lights for one hour… I had an appointment on the Bund with my friend Jeff to witness what supposed to be a spectacular spot of darkness in the night, together with a quite large amount of TV cameras pointing at Pudong skylines. Whatever. I was early, quite early. This special day was not making the atmosphere different but even in normal day, that place is unique. Any European landing on Wai Tan (the Chinese name of the Bund is 外滩) would feel like the loads of Irish, Poles and Italians that arrived at the beginning of last century in New York when it was still the new world.
It was still a bit chilly but the place was crowded as usual, an incredible mix of Chinese tourist from all over the country and some kind of European tourists.
Looking across the Huang Pu river, I feel in their attitude a mix of pure contemplation, with the satisfaction of having Victoria bay and the Eiffel tower in the same package together with dizziness in front of such crazy urban landscape; is there a real purpose in that accumulation of light and concrete ?
I had a camera, a roll of Delta400 and 30 minutes of my time to shape with light an attempt to capture the mood of the day.
After-all, the art of photography is born with trials an errors and learning by doing. On one hand, a camera, even basic, requires some practice. A photographer has to acquire the dexterity to actually take enough distance from the machine to operate it fast enough. On the other hand, when it is about attempting to capture the atmosphere, the mood, or some specific feelings about a place, an event, I believe that a photographer needs the proper brain connections between his emotions and the operation of a camera. For some genius, this learning loop is fast like light but in my case, this takes time and it is probably a never ending story.
I love analog process because there is a significant time between the experiment and the discovery of the result of the experiment. I do think this significant lapse of time is both unique and useful.
I need this time to memorize and to learn, especially for night photography on film, which is in some way similar to the delicate art of butterfly catching, with photons instead and 36 possible attempts as lifetime for the net.
The photographs taken that day take part in a project called “Shanghai Blackout”, which is in fact the follow-up of the exhibition “Three hours and thirty five minutes [ Night Shanghai – 夜上海 ]” which last image ended on the Bund. In this new part, I will explore a more abstract,modern and urban face of Shanghai by night. Thus, I changed my film from TriX to Delta 400 and quit the old street maze to the modern Shanghai.
There will be more to come !