This project explores the changing space of the urban environment in Chinese cities. The photographs investigate the role of memory, culture and personal space as part of a person’s identity. China’s current urban expansion offers an ideal opportunity to document the destruction and rebuilding of old and new memories. I started this series of images in Beijing prior to the 2008 Olympics and continued in Shanghai, preceding the World Expo.
In both cities large urban living spaces were eradicated and replaced by modern housing blocks, roads or commercial spaces. In the process, thousands of people were relocated from their traditional dwellings into mostly high-rise buildings. This action not only changes the living space for the mostly poor inhabitants, but it also irreversibly changes the culture of this urban landscape. In the build-up to the Shanghai World Expo it is estimated that 20,000 people have been relocated to make room for new development.
In other parts of China the situation is no different, where redevelopment plans run into billions of dollars. According to the International Herald Tribune (29 April 2010) A single city, Chongquin, plans to invest 1 trillion renminbi or 146.4 billion USD in 323 redevelopment projects in the next few years.
My photos explore what has been left behind. This includes images of old buildings that still bear witness to their former life, people living in a state of flux and objects that contain cultural and personal memories.
‘All things change, and we change with them.’ Chinese proverb