This december, dutch architect Willemien van Duijn published a wonderful book about abandoned cities around the world. I was more than happy to participate to it with one of my shot the new giant housing complex being build in Ordos / Kambashi. If you are in Holland, please check this book, the other photos are quite incredible as well. You can have some preview on the NRC ( Dutch newspaper ) photo section here:
and more snapshot of the book taken with my phone here:
In the arid landscape of Chinese’ inner mongolia, local authorities have decided to use the extra revenue from its rich coal lands to build a new modern city. Together with very modern architecture, developer are currently constructing some of the biggest housing complexes & mega-blocks in the world. Kangbashi is the new city of ordos. Built to house millions, its current population is just about 100 000. But as most of international media were pointing towards a ghost city, in the past couple of years, streets of ordos are not as deserted as before. Succession of expensive cars are strolling through the streets and some of the newly finished appartement complex are occupied. Despite the signs, the city is starting to grow a life. But it is its surreal surdimension that I have documented in those photos. The A-town complex is the new district of Ordos / Kangbashi composed of a giant housing complex with currently more than 120 apartment buildings under construction. Around the site, empty large roads are drawn and constructed through a desert like landscape. In the center of the city, the top cultural buildings as the museum of Ordos and the museum of Modern Art are designed by some edgy chinese architects such as Ma Yansong ( MAD ) and Xu Tiantian (DnA). This construction of a city too big for its in inhabitants is another push forwards towards a real-estate bubble currently happening in China. This small project was shot with the nx200 in partnership with samsung, the photos can be found and voted for on this page : www.facebook.com/samsungnx
When I first stepped in Chongqing two years ago, I had the same feeling as when I first arrived in Manhattan from new wark airport in 1995… A feeling of entering in a mysterious and magical place… I felt in love with the city immediately. A couple of month after, my first contribution for Le Monde was an opening photo of the city. Since then, I have been back three times and I continue to be fascinated by it. To my eyes, it is a representation of the recent chinese history in one place at one moment. From the mafia era to the red era, the city is full of mysteries and stories that are waiting to be told… From the central clock tower, surrounded by giant shopping malls and luxury shops, you can slowly walk down from this upper part of town to the river at the lowest level. This downgrade will also take you through all the different level of the society. Near the clock, new and modern compounds are home to the rich… As you walk down, the living standarts are going down as well… and in the lowest part, near the river, electricity and windows become a luxury…. In some part, some strange old temples are trying to resist the rapid development of the city -in other giant holes suddenly appears in between high rises building and are waiting to be purchased by some developer…
As I will pursue my work in this city, this issue is bringing you an introduction to the city. In the full screen gallery, I have inserted some of the large format urban photos of the city, mostly taken from or towards the river banks who define the cities. I recommend you to purchase this edition of AA ( L architecture d’Aujourd’hui july / august edition ) and read as well the excellent article written by french architects from Archiplein agency in shanghai. Its a full 10 page spread !!!
Last month, I received a phone call from the fader magazine asking me if I wanted to join Little Dragon, a Swedish band on their tour in China and cover it from documentary point of view ( no performance photos ). A couple of days later and I was in the train towards nanjing – just has the band landed on chinese soils. As soon as I arrived, the mood was down. Most of foreign bands have just been canceled from the festival for some very unclear reasons. But very fast, Dan Shapiro, shanghai based musician and writer took on him the duty to find another venue to allow those bands to perform. And here we were , on an improvised tour date, trying to document this as best as I could.
Around 7pm, in a basement of a small bar in downtown nanjing, the stage was finally set up for an incredible festival side show. Most of the other bands were also very happy to find an opportunity to play for their nanjing fans and the show was a great success.
Taizhou is located between shanghai and wenzhou in the the zhejiang province. As almost every small chinese city, the city of taizhou has decided to focus in a single industry. But in this in this case, it is quite a particular one…. world’s trash recycling…
From electronic components to big pieces of engines, everything is good to go through taizhou… the consequences of this industry are pollution and risks for the workers:
The story has been published in “Le Monde” below is a paperclip of the article.
The mekong is without a doubt the most famous river in Asia – its route is as magic as its banks, taking it sources in the tibetan plateau it goes down to south china and navigates through some of the most beautiful landscapes of south east asia, bordering burma, thailand , laos and cambodia, its delta finishes in one of the most beautiful region of vietnam.
But more than just a beautiful river, the mekong river represents and generate an important source of hydro power. In the recent years, south east asian countries complained about that important period of droughts and floods of the river, blaming Chinese over the issues. As China hasn’t been originally part of the MRC ( Mekong River Committee created in 1957 at the end of Indochina ) and its now failing to give clear data about their dams project up stream, it is hard to confirm that they are at the source of those problems. But one sure thing is that the PRC is very interested in using and investing in every possible hydroelectric power in China and outside China ( State company such as China Southern Grid already invested in projects outside the country in cambodia & laos ).
Furthermore, the MRC has already blamed china directly , saying its new dam directly impacted engendered species such as the mekong dolphin the dugong. Despite all these problems, new dams planned will have significantly worse impact if carried out as planned. All nations downstream and the environment will suffer from added pollution (due to development and relatively lax regulation and enforcement in China compared to Thailand, poisoning the food supply from pesticide runoff and heavy industry, as well as promoting algal blooms from organophosphates from agriculture, as well as water hyacinth infestation), river blockage problems as fish cannot swim upstream to spawn, and potentially devastating very low water flow.
As I was travelling back from Laos into China, I stopped a couple of days in Jinhong ( xishuangbanna ), the largest city north of the border. The Chinese city has a real south-east asian feeling to it and we are yet far from the big boom of eastern coastal mega-poles. On the week ends, youngster come to enjoy the fresh mekong river banks for a swim or to clean their motorbikes, cars and just have fun between themselves, enjoying the river at another level than their motherland…
A few hundred meters away from my shanghai apartment stands one of the most luxurious and impressive apartment building in the city: 41 HengShan road. Occupying the last 2 floors of this building live Pearl Lam – the queen of the chinese art world. Starting the “contrast gallery ” in hong kong in 1992, she slowly became a central person in the development of the Chinese Art. Her apartment is an incredible overly decorated space, with both art pieces and furniture made by famous chinese artist and designer. In the western wing of the 22nd floor, the space is dedicated for guests – a big table is set up to welcome about 60 guests for dinner parties. As we were setting up for the photo, the scottish “maitre de maison” told me that dinner parties were quite regular and how Anna Wintour and other high figures were regular guests to Pearl’s parties. On each corner of the floor, small terraces, featuring extensive plants and vegetations are overlooking the cities. From one of them, I can see my own terrace which seems much lower than where i am standing, like lost in between common buildings… As Pearl, arrives, she seems quite stressed & busy and gives the usual ” you have 5 minutes ! ” As I start shooting, we slowly engaged in conversation and the atmosphere ease up real quick. We spend a lot of time talking why “Hasselblad” is still a much better camera than modern DSLR and we end up debating on the current DSK case in new york. After the classic shot for the book ( Made by Chinese ), I bring her to a more personal set up to get a glimpse of Pearl Lam – up close. As I try to break into her she refuses to let go a smile.. I ask her then to get angry at me and this is how i got my last shot.
if you want to know more about her, read the excellent new york times article here
After my trip to Iceland about 7 years ago, I thought I have seen some of the strangest and most beautiful landscapes in the world… But when we we were driving on the Pamir plateau towards the border of pakistan, I started to hesitate…
Slowly going up from Kashgar in xinjiang china, the road is suddenly cut my an imposing range of mountains rising higher than 7000 meters… And suddenly the landscape become an incredible mix of ice lakes, snow cap mountains, rocks of different colors… and in the middle of this natural art piece, an incredibly good road is going all the way to pakistan…
On the side of it, we get to meet some han chinese worker who just arrived from their faraway provinces to work on making this road even better. For once, I wont add commentaries and let the images speak for themselves: