‘Lovin’ It’, but at What Cost? Modern Shanghai Depicted in Photos

    Technology as a lighting source. (Image: Adam Hinton)Woman wearing a white pollution mask. (Image: Adam Hinton)Old man in an alleyway. (Image: Adam Hinton)Woman in a red room. (Image: Adam Hinton)On a crowded bus. (Image: Adam Hinton)'Lovin' It.' Photo book cover. (Image: Adam Hinton)Shanghai breaking out from the old China; a sad loss of traditional ways.  (Image: Adam Hinton)Man walking with washing at a construction site. (Image: Adam Hinton)Cityscape, Shanghai. (Image: Adam Hinton)A boy in a dark alleyway. (Image: Adam Hinton)A shopping mall. (Image: Adam Hinton)Filming green neon with a digital camera. (Image: Adam Hinton)Figures on red neon steps. (Image: Adam Hinton)A drying white shirt. (Image: Adam Hinton)A lone figure caught in the street light. (Image: Adam Hinton)Shanty alleyway in the early evening. (Image: Adam Hinton)A man washing on the street. (Image: Adam Hinton)Trees and towerblocks lit up at night. (Image: Adam Hinton)A Shanghai nightclub. (Image: Adam Hinton)A tourist taking photographs. (Image: Adam Hinton)Streetlights and the moon. (Image: Adam Hinton)Trees lit at night. (Image: Adam Hinton)Workers playing cards at night. (Image: Adam Hinton)A new housing estate. (Image: Adam Hinton)Tower blocks lit up at night. (Image: Adam Hinton)Escalator in the metro. (Image: Adam Hinton)

    Lovin’ It is a photo-book by Adam Hinton that explores the dark effects technology and consumerist culture are having on Shanghai.

    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.

    Lovin’ It was a project he worked on throughout 2004-2007, each year going back to Shanghai to explore the speed of change and its negative effect on the city.

    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.

    Lovin' It. (Photo: Curious London)

    ‘Lovin’ It’. (Image: Curious London)

    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.

    Photographer Adam Hinton. (Photo: Photographers website)

    Adam Hinton. (Image: Photographers’ website)

    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.

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