[Shovel] Summer Portfolio July 2011 – 江川路, 闵行区

Coal Storage, Jiangchuan Road, Minhang District , Shanghai China 2011

It’s 5pm. The sun, usually a white hot nova, now cools to an amber light, casting long shadows as its rays squeeze through the intricate pipes, steel trusses and pocked roofs. The air smells musky, high in sulfur as the man, coated in a thin film of grime, digs a worn shovel with a scrunch, deftly piling the potbellied wheelbarrow behind him.

I just got off work, camera in hand. After the hash of the shutter, a rash honk announces the arrival of a tanker with the rather incongrous (and suspicious) name of ‘Shanghai Good Food Produce’. The factory is a snacks manufacturer, specialising in korean snacks for export. While in other countries rely on a well organised electrical grid infrastructure, not so in all of China.

This factory burns low grade, quality sulfur coal in order to fuel its diet of heat, heat in order to cook its ingredients by the front. At the far corner, zebra striped smoke stacks spew remnants of steam. Our neighbours are doing exactly the same thing. Environmental pollution is the fact of unchecked economic progress.

Minhang however is one of the greenest areas, I would dare say, in Shanghai. Lush trees line to road side, bushes spout pink flowers in Spring. The roads are wide, ample space for cars that zip with the announcement of a circus. It used to be rural, but ever since this area has been designated a special development zone, factories came to stay.

I walk everyday for an hour from the end of the metro line to my place of work, among the giggling kids, the rice planters and the grimy workers like this one using pure muscle to power the engine of China’s manufacturing. It is not clean, it is certainly dirty, and it takes a tough character to live in this sort of place. Am I that sort of character? I don’t know yet, but I do know I can tell abit of their stories from the photographs I take.

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