More than anything else, Shanghai is an attitude. But this post is incomplete because I often only thought to photograph people when it was too late – they had walked by, the moment passed, or it would have just been plain creepy for me to do so.
I use a small camera, not the kind that lends me much credibility as a photographer and thus am often turned down when I ask to photograph a subject. They assume, I presume, that I’m keeping their photos for a giant psycho-sexual voodoo collection. Which is true. But no, I’m joking. It lends me even less credibility when I say, “It’s for my blog.” or in China, “Boo-luo-guh.” So I have to be discreet, feeling half triumphant and half villainous, leery pervert- when I do snap a photo of someone without their knowledge… or sometimes, with them staring straight at me:
|Arguably the best place to read the Sunday paper.|
What I’ve noticed though, is that laborers really don’t give a damn if you take their picture. They might give you a strange look here and there, but moving to the city (most laborers are not from Shanghai but from the countryside) has made them develop a thick skin to protect them from the sorts of evil only a big city can bring out in people – what’s one young woman with a camera?
But for the most part, life is good. Hard, but good, with pockets of rest and gossip in between shifts:
|After each day the brooms are fed to pandas. Just kidding. But seriously, these brooms work better than the ones with bristles.|
And the shift itself, which depending on the restaurant, flies by because of the sheer volume of people you must work to feed:
|A different kind of sweatshop at Xiao3 Yang2 Shen1 Jian1.|
Some people make a living – and friends- fixing the darnedest things, living by an old code: “Why throw it away when you can fix it?” The economy of it amuses and inspires me:
|A pot mender. His shoes however, are quite new.|
There is the calm before the storm:
|A small hole in the wall thirty minutes before noon.|
And then the storm itself:
|The crowd only grew, as did our curiosity and appetite. We must have that rice!|
And if one is not Shanghainese by birth, there is the process of becoming naturalized, by force. My cousin successfully shoved her way to the front of the crowd and seized one of the last few bowls of fragrant rice.
A good day for the rice vendor; bad day for the dish washer.
All around us, Shanghai.