The title of the book is quite clever with its use of the iconic McDonalds advertising catchphrase. As viewers, we think this series has to do with consumerism, right? And yes, that’s part of it, but once you see the images, you realise that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Hinton is a London-based photographer who holds a strong photo-journalist background. He balances advertising commissions with incredible personal projects.
All these rapid changes mean people and places get left behind.
The book is laid out with quotations from Mao Zedong, co-founder of the Chinese Communist Party. Chairman Mao was responsible for the death of millions of Chinese, for example during the Great Famine and the Cultural Revolution.
Hinton introduces the project on his website:
“Shanghai is a perfect example of how China has fast-tracked in its adoption of Western, capitalist growth. The creation of a global megalopolis has resulted in the fast disappearance of old China as developers, consumers, and urban refugees have converged in their enthusiasm for neon and shopping. The rest of life seems to have been crow-barred in the spaces left between so much development.”
Personally, I like to think of those people in the spaces in between. Perhaps there are some still sticking strong to the traditional values that seem to get bulldozed by communist rule.
The introduction for the photo-book is written by John Gittings, former foreign leader-writer and East Asia editor at The Guardian. Gittings first visited China in 1971 during the Cultural Revolution, and in 2001 he opened the newspaper’s first staff bureau in the mainland in Shanghai.
There is also an interview with Hinton and Nigel Warburton, the renowned cultural critic, that includes this quote: “The neon lights from the shops and adverts produce this surreal manufactured environment which creates this feeling of hyper-reality.”
The lighting in the photos is remarkable, and each shot looks like something out of Blade Runner. Most of them were taken at night or twilight, and no additional lighting was used. Purely manufactured light sources from shops, electronic advertising boards, or malls illuminate the scenes. This style of lighting affects the sincerity of the image which I imagine the photographer intended to support his view.
This series of photos is fascinating, and beautifully executed, but also leaves me a touch sad. I hope the people of China don’t get too distracted with all that shopping when there is centuries of wealth in the ancient culture and values worth holding strong to. I also hope I don’t get sucked up in a consumer culture, as I am from the West after all. I see from the photos that this can leave one feeling empty and alienated. Not my cup of tea.
Enjoy these photos and please share if you like them.