Compared with modern high-rises and busy commercial and amusement buildings, places where Shanghai people live tell more about their daily life. Exterior grandness and prosperity please visitors’ eyes while coziness and warmth are what Shanghai people really need. Homes are very private places for Shanghainese: they seldom invite people to visit them at home; and they always make home a tidy and cozy place, sometimes even resplendent and magnificent, though very often it may look shabby outside. Homes are interior secret spaces where Shanghainese lead their lives and Shanghai builds its characters.
Therefore, Shanghai is rather an ‘interior’ city. Only by plunging deep into the interiority - Shanghai people’s homes – can we truly know this city’s spiritual life, while photography art helps achieve this. Most photographers take pictures of public cultural signs such as skyscrapers in Lujiazui Finance and Trade Zone, the architecture complex on the Bund, Shikumen houses at Xintiandi and other stylish modern visual images that show not the interior authentic life of Shanghainese but the exterior flashy and superficial cosmopolitism of Shanghai.
This might be Hu Yang’s subconscious photography ideal: to create an ‘Image Utopia’ of Shanghai. People with different social identities become citizens of his Utopian world where they can enjoy equal rights. With these symbolistic images, Hu Yang reveals his art ideal of equality and realism.
---by zhang hong (professor of tongji university)
About the Author
Hu Yang, photographer. he spent 14 months pointing his lens into the homes of rich and poor for his book, Shanghai Living. He wanted to look behind the glitz associated with China’s economic juggernaut and show the day-to-day existence of its people, to capture them in their own environment, stripped of the mask or “face” that underpins Chinese society beyond the home. “China is a focus for the whole world and Shanghai is like the dragon’s head,” Hu says. “But what about the real lives of people behind the superficiality? We see so many pictures of the new Water Cube and the Bird’s Nest for the Olympics [in Beijing]. These may be magnificent, but they don’t represent the reality of life for ordinary Chinese. At home is where people can truly be themselves. Where they relax and are no longer constricted by the identities they may take because of their work or their position in society.”