If the term “two Americas” (or two Londons, or, in this case, two Shanghais) is largely understood as a metaphor, what are we to make of it here?
The contrast of the ruins subordinated to the brilliant skyscrapers is literal enough. What makes the photo more unique, however, is how it (and the prosperity) operates on more than one plane. It’s a photo that naturally engages our depth perception. Knowing how perspective and capitalism works, what we understand is that the shimmering towers are a ways off from the Dickensonian shambles.
At the same time, though, it also works as a flat plane — at least, if you lend some magic realism. In that case, it’s like the towers are sprouting out of the row structure … and the larger edifices have sucked all the energy out of that dark and shattered building. Or, back to the metaphor, we can see the wealth rise and shine on the backs of the lower 99.
“1%: Privilege in a Time of Global Inequality” is a Kickstarter project to fund a photobook. You can see the rest of the photos on the contributor page. If you’re so inclined, the have just two days left to meet their goal.
(photo: Greg Girard. caption: Shanghai Falling (Fuxing Lu Demolition), 2002.)