phantom shanghai

These photographs were made in Shanghai between 2001 and 2006, and published in the book Phantom Shanghai in 2007. Most of the homes, buildings and neighborhoods featured in the book are now long gone or transformed beyond recognition. The photographs aren’t exactly a lament for a disappearing or “old” Shanghai. Instead they were intended to register a very specific kind of “old”, and a major transitional moment in the city. China fell off the capitalistic grid in 1949, following Mao’s victory, and for the next 40 years there was no urban development for profit in Shanghai (or other cities). Private property was essentially outlawed and existing buildings were repurposed in ways never intended: single-family homes were subdivided to accommodate multiple families, hallways became communal kitchens, car garages were turned into homes. China began to embrace economic reforms in the 1980s and by the 1990s Shanghai was rapidly making up for lost time. I wanted to show what a city looks like when the lights of capitalism are turned off for 40 years and then suddenly turned back on.

Greg Girard