Merci Marc!

There he was, climbing up a wall with a ladder to get a better view of what was on the other side. A quote stated something along the lines of ‘there are times you have to change the viewpoint to get the right image’.  This small image of photographer Marc Riboud demonstrating how he created some of his iconic photos, struck a chord with me.  I was in China visiting the 2010 exhibition: THE INSTINCTIVE MOMENT – A Retrospective, at the Shanghai Art Museum.  I was aware of his more famous photos, the Eiffel Tower painter, the woman placing the flower in the gun and the fabulously framed antique shop dealer photo from Beijing. These images by the renowned Magnum photographer were all there to see.

Shanghai was about to host the World Expo and the city was busy’ cleaning up’ its urban spaces.  This translated to, among other things, the destruction of many old, traditional neighbourhoods, the so-called Longtangs.  The homes were bulldozed and the occupants moved into new high-rise buildings.

Prior to seeing the Riboud exhibition, I snuck into an old Longtang neighbourhood that was in the process of being demolished.  To my surprise, there were still people living among the rubble, refusing to move. I spend a couple of hours taking photos and got out before I ran into trouble with the local authorities.

Having seen Riboud’s photos, many taken in China between 1957-2002, I kept thinking about that little photo of him looking over the wall.  This was a metaphor for me, to look beyond the obvious and to take some risks in my photography.  The next day I went back to the Longtang to take more photos.  As I wandered among the rubble, I saw it, a wall that prevented me from seeing what lay beyond it.  Instinctively I climbed it to look over.  The moment I had reached the top I saw a lone man cycling past a grand old house that was still standing. I lifted the camera and captured a photo that to this day I will remember as my Marc Riboud moment.

Merci Marc, you inspired me to focus closer on the moment and the emotions that can be found within that reality.

“Seeing is the paradise of the soul.”

Marc Riboud
(24.06.1923 – 30.08.2016)


‘Merci Marc’ by Roman W. Schatz, Shanghai 2010

Endure – Urban Change in China

Endure is a photo essay of Urban Change in China, it is now a featured exhibit on the Social Documentary website.
The online exhibit features photography by myself plus a short film that was produced with Morgan Schatz Blackrose and Shane Schatz.
To see the video, please select the Video/Multimedia section on the linked page.



Back to China

On my last visit to China I was struck by the scale of urban destruction, called development, that was taking place in large cities.  Last year Shanghai was readying itself for the World Expo and in an effort to present a modern image, many of the old neighbourhoods were in the process of being pulled down.  I’ll be back in China next month and will continue my photo series on the changing face of urban China. 


All things change, and we change with them.

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


Endure the moment

On my recent trip to China I collected images for my current art project which examines issues of personal reality, space and emotions.  As I explored some of the back streets in Shanghai I became a witness to the power of progress, destruction and human endurance, all of which evoked a range of emotions.  While in Shanghai I was lucky enough to visit the MARC RIBOUD exhibition : THE INSTINCTIVE MOMENT, A Retrospective in China, at the Shanghai Art Museum.  The works on show inspired me to focus closer on the moment and the emotions that can be found within that reality.

“Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second.” Marc Riboud