Howard French, former New York Times Shanghai bureau chief, returned this summer to undertake a photography project of portraits of the old parts of the city and the people who live there. He writes about the project for the Times:
For the last couple of months I have spent the first part of each day either teaching at a Chinese university or writing.
Nearly every afternoon, though, in what has distinctly felt like the start of a new day, I have set off with camera in hand by motorcycle and subway to some of the fast-disappearing old neighborhoods of this city, to knock on the doors of hundreds of ordinary, working-class people.
These encounters with strangers have plunged me deep into a world experienced by few foreigners, and indeed, one might venture, few Chinese — particularly those of the middle class.
Through the time spent in the cramped, dimly lit homes of my subjects — people whose portraits I’ve taken for a long-term photographic project about the city’s oldest neighborhoods — I may have learned as much about Shanghai and about China as I did in five busy years as a correspondent here.