It was a Sunday morning when I met Mr. Chen. The day started in a freezing breeze at 6:00, I had first an appointment with another fellow photographer I met through some infamous connections. The light was as soft as a winter sunrise. We walked around, found some very interesting spot and did few encounters. Weekend mornings are always an interesting time to be awaken and out of the bed, people looks different ! This is the kind of thing that makes an early weak-up acceptable !
After the breakfast, the light was bright, spreading an heavy contrast all over the place. We walked north and reached Beijing Lu (The Beijing Road – in english), a very interesting place for photographers. With the end of the morning, while chatting with some locals in a vanishing area, M. Chen came out from nowhere with few veggies in a plastic bag and a fancy haircut (could be inspired from a german team in the 80’s).
As we were quite interested by the history of the are, Mr. Chen proposed us to show his own house at five minutes by walk. This is in fact a huge building from the 1910’s which was owned by only one familly before the cultural revolution. Nowadays, 24 families are sharing the place in small appartments of different standings. We didn’t see the one at the lowest floors, their nice doors remainded closed. But upper in the floors, the neighbours of M. Chen were pleaser to make us discover there place. After a visit of the ground floor and the surroundings of this classical brick building with stunning ceramics on the patio floor, we entered by the back and climbed with M. Chen.
It is simply crazy in term of infrastructure. As the kitchens are shared by 7 or 8 families, all the utilities are duplicated. In one kitchen we saw 7 ceiling bulbs, connected to 7 electrical networks, same for the tab and water pipes. We concluded our visits by a short tour of Mr. Chen’s appartement in the top floor. As the ceiling is quite high he was able to build a mezzanine. A good idea to save space taking into account the amazing collection of stuffs Mr. Chen keeps in the main room of his appartment. I have hardly seen such an accumulation of objects, from plastic dolphins to statues, fans, bulbs, bags, postcards and other unidentified collectables. Mr. Had even a large format lens in his stock.