The Defining Shot

By: Gustav Hoiland

Feb 15 2010

Category: china


Focal Length:52mm
Shutter:1/0 sec
Camera:NIKON D80

Shanghai's Evening Rush

This may well be my favorite shot from my time abroad in China.  It shows the hustle bustle of the streets.  It includes a landmark that, to those familiar with famous skylines, establishes this as 100% Shanghai.  It has the Chinese characters on all of the signage.  The mess of power lines.  A bicycle.  The luxury cars of China’s new wealth.  A taxi (they’re all Volkswagen Santanas). Bamboo scaffolding. Clothing hanging out to dry.

This shot shows Shanghai as dense, busy, rich, somewhat lagging in electrical infrastructure, but above all foreign. This could not be shot in New York.

On top of all of those memory-inducers, it’s holds its own compositionally.  A nice off-center vanishing point; background, midground and … admittedly not much for foreground, except for the turning car which you might catch in your peripheral if you were standing on the corner looking up at the tower.  The street is takes up just a tiny portion of it all, making people feel small and, at least at the resolution here, unidentifiable – just drones underneath the greatness of China, which to me is entirely held in that crazy tower. The tower, while crossed by some power lines (hmm), is the only thing that’s really isolated here.

If I remember correctly I desaturated this quite a bit and then yellowed it out. Makes it feel older. It’s not quite sepia-toned, but it feels perhaps more historic than images where I’ll make the colors really loud, where modernity screams and sleekness and all of those qualities are emphasized.  Here it’s same’ol Shanghai. With the exception of the new Audi that’s front and center, this same photo probably could have been shot 20 years ago (I’m not sure when the tower was built though).

That’s Shanghai

3 comments on “The Defining Shot”

  1. Hey, you’re the goto expert. Thanks for haginng out here.

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