Chongqing stands shrouded in fog, even the sun struggles to cut through the misty air to reach the surface. Surrounded by the Yangtze and Jialing Rivers, Chongqing is a city built upon mountainous terrain. The varying heights of structures spot the horizon, as Chongqing glows throughout the night. First visiting this city in 2012, the four subsequent years of absence left me to greet a familiar landscape that had drastically changed. The once majestic old districts have been leveled in the name of progress, leaving the romantic vista from the city’s cable car system to become a quaint tourist attraction.
To someone looking to capture emotion from the shadows and lines of architecture & history, such a change may be shocking. However, cities’ stories are told by the people to bring life to the landscape – and for people who once lived in wooden huts without electricity, this evolution of Chongqing might be a welcomed change. For me, this progress is bittersweet. As China progresses, it refreshes its landscape by transferring aging slums into examples of modern urbanization. Slowly but surely, traces of the past are cleared to create a new architectural face.
The majority of Chongqing’s 30 million residents are famers who were resettled into the city. Many hills of the metropolis are densely populated by agriculture squeezed between buildings that stretch into the clouds. Awe inspiring forty-story structures shield the micro farms that feed the city’s inhabitants, and riverbanks offer opportunity to the many fishermen who labor daily to feed their families. A transformation is taking place, the old alleys harbor familiar smells of seafood, fired chicken, and the delicacies of street vendors. In the evening, the “Neon Boat” restaurants on the water illuminate the cityscape.
Construction sites sprout up in excess of two dozen at a time, their cranes and excavators established as elements of the urban environment. Key areas of Chongqing are connected by incredibly high bridges and roads which dwarf the many valleys created by the mountains. These superstructures and the Chongqing Metro form a cyberpunk lattice above the city – presenting a surreal thick, monochromatic character. My time there is pressured by the motivation to capture Chongqing and its people as they live through this rapid change; immersed in exploration to document and rediscover the old soul of the city before it’s lost to history.
Here is a preview of 14 out of 120 photographs from this set.
(available in 4k – 3840x2560px)