The Faces of Shanghai

I found a link to the New York Times Travel Slide Show: The Faces of Shanghai on Micah’s blog. I had seen the link elsewhere, but didn’t bother clicking on it until I saw it on Micah’s blog. He has good “link cred” with me, I guess.

As Micah mentions, there’s definitely a slant to the people who were chosen for the portraits and profiles. To me, the slant seemed a lot like, “the Chinese are no longer the backwards Communists you think they are,” and since there are still people with this misperception, it’s good to keep getting that message out. Whatever the message, and however imperfect, I found the collection really entertaining.

Browsing the photos, it also made me recall that back in the day I once discussed doing something similar with Wilson. Probably out of laziness, I never did. But I’m sure there are other people with nice cameras that could do just as good a job as the NY Times if they wanted to.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Funny how they list how many cell phones and DVDs they’ve consumed… Sounds more like market research 😉

  2. Is Growing Pains a huge show in Shanghai now? I lost count of how many people listed Growing Pains among their favorite shows.

  3. Wyatt,

    Growing Pains has been big in China for a while. I remember my students used to always make mention of that show when I taught English in Hangzhou. I believe the Chinese name is ³É³¤µÄ·³ÄÕ.

  4. Less a “slant”, more like a central theme. Maybe interesting to anyone who doesn’t know MacDonalds has made it to China. Counting big macs and cellphones makes them all sound like crass hyperconsumers, and I only hope they are not all that superficial. I’d like to see the series continue with “Faces of Rural Qinghai”.

  5. CelloCello Says: May 8, 2005 at 10:09 pm

    What a funny criteria or theme to show China is not that backward any more (as compare to western world)? Again, very interesting but made-me-laugh western mindset… Seems that the Shanghainese can not survive at all without American stuff i.e. junk food,vacant idea of fasion ???

  6. cellocello Says: May 8, 2005 at 10:14 pm

    Again, the American implying how superious they are – see how those just modernized Chinese are desperately pursuing our trash…

  7. Thanks for the idea John.

    I don’t have a great camera, but I’m always looking for a new angle to photograp that reflects the life, beauty and changes of China.

    I’ll have to see what I can come up with. There’s a room next to the gym I work out in where a few guys get together every evening to practice break dancing. Maybe that would be a good venue start, what do you think?

  8. Todd,

    Yeah, the original plan was to capture the faces of the people I saw every day in my life at Zhejiang University City College in Hangzhou. Teachers, students, street vendors, corner store cashier, guards, etc. ¡°Faces of Rural Qinghai¡± would be cool too.

  9. Gordon,

    Sounds great! Put it online and I’ll link to it.

  10. I’d like to see a ‘faces of america’! how many times do americans go to mcd’s?? hahahaha

  11. ÍÐµÄ Says: May 9, 2005 at 2:14 am

    In a sense, you can’t win when you run this kind of article. If they put up pictures of rural farmers living on $12 a month, everyone would cry about how biased it is and that they should show faces of “modernized” Shanghainese with their Gucci handbags.

  12. Da Xiangchang Says: May 9, 2005 at 4:30 am

    You said it, John! It’s definitely the Chinese-can-be-cool-too slant. Personally, I find such a message to be a bit condescending, but then what do you expect from the NY Times. 🙁

  13. Hi John, thanks for the link. I do recall “Faces of Hangzhou” was the exact concept that you and I discussed. It was a noble idea and the fact that we could “meet chicks” made it all the better. Good to hear you are putting in hours for your studies. Keep the appetite up – your brain needs it!

  14. You mean Chinese people aren’t wearing Mao suits and riding Pigeon bicycles anymore? Wow, China sure is developing fast!!

    I know the NY Times also did some black and white portraits of coal miners in China a while ago. I preferred those much more to these portraits.

  15. It was a bit overt really wasn’t it. BBC did a series last year on “Changing China” which was a lot more balanced, an ex-foreign correspondent returned 20 years later and travelled around China taking pictures and writing articles.

  16. Watch this space: (pending DNS)

  17. Hi Brad, did you just register that domain? How’s this for consideration or as a suggestion? Using some behind the scenes programming to make the site active and updatable by anyone who follows the guidelines in a submit form/browse entry. For example: Photo Upload (300w x 500h), Question & Answer, aim/msn/qq chat, in a form, and automatic processing. The site could grow astronomically. Combine that with a forum to meat in person or to meet online friends. Geez, further, add a RATING system like hotornot.

  18. Wilson,
    I’ve thought about doing a community photo site before, but I primarily want to do Faces as an “art” project. I may add some of the functionality you mention to either Faces or ShanghaiStreets in the future, though. For now, check out Shanghaining’s photo section (don’t miss the “hot” page).

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