Zhujiajiao (朱家角) is an ancient Chinese water village in the western part of Shanghai. The village is more than 1,700 years old, and is navigated largely by boat.
Zhujiajiao is a bit of a surprise. It’s not what you think of when you think of Shanghai. Shanghai has soaring skyscrapers, layers of bridges that curve gracefully over and around each other, lights that color the night sky. But Zhujiajiao is Shanghai, too.
I had the opportunity to visit Zhujiajiao in the summer of 2011. The day was rainy and dark, but the town was beautiful. Like a true tourist, I pulled out my camera and started hunting for photographs. The overcast lighting was a challenge. At the time, I didn’t yet know that I should increase my shutter speed or lower my f-stop. But when the light was right, the town seemed to rise up out of the mist.
I wanted to showcase these images because Zhujiajiao is a study in contrasts. It’s an ancient town that, on the day I happened to visit, almost seemed to be fading away. The white walls were muted by the gray sky which was in turn reflected in the water, giving the whole town a very flat, surreal look. Yet the town was full of people, and the market was full of food, and the men guiding the boats were more than happy to show you around. The bright red lanterns and the liveliness of the markets kept the dreariness away.
The fifth picture from the end is one of my favorites, because it really captures this tension between idyllism and activity. So many of the elements in the photograph work together to draw the eye to a single boat. The boat is positioned in the lower right corner, aligned by the rule of thirds. It is framed by the bridge, and the sky reflected in the water under the bridge creates a full circle with the boat at its center. The contrast between the boat and its background of white sky and water highlights the boat and the people on it.
I created this video in Final Cut with music from the Free Music Archive.