Capturing Shangai’s disappearing streets

Blending Chinese traditional style and colonial art deco, the typical Shikumen lane houses are drastically disappearing. Cody Ellingham preserves their memory in neon night fragments.

Shanghai colonial districts, like the International Settlement or the French Concession, used to retain a European mood with a very local Chinese vibe made of noisy meat markets, modified electric motorbikes, bundles of live wires dangling from rooftops, neon lights and smog. New Zeland-based photographer Cody Ellingham captured some of the old Shikumen lane hosues, offering the viewer a glimpse of the old times, marked by a strong community atmosphere.

The term “Shikumen” comes from the brick or stone gateway at the entrance to these communities. “Almost all of the original nineteenth century examples are lost,” explains Ellingham, “with the vast majority being post-World War One specimens.” “There is a distinct vibe walking through the lane house areas that are still inhabited” he continues. “You hear the Shanghainese dialect and many of the older people do not even leave the lane houses, everything they need is in the community. And for anything else there are men who they can pay to go out to run errands.” Most of these neighbourhoods have been gentrified and cleaned up, and Ellingham’s series Shanghai Streets overlays the old and new mediating nostalgia with the estranging glow of neon lights.

Born (1991) and raised in Hawkes Bay, New Zeland, Cody Ellingham studied Japanese literature and language at Victoria University of Wellington. He started photographing the remains of houses in 2011, when the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami devastated the region. Ellingham took the chance to photograph the foundations of houses and shops that no longer existed, exposing a deep connection between time and place that he has continued to explore in the Shanghai Streets series.

Latest on Art

Latest on Domus

Read more
China Germany India Mexico, Central America and Caribbean Sri Lanka Korea icon-camera close icon-comments icon-down-sm icon-download icon-facebook icon-heart icon-heart icon-next-sm icon-next icon-pinterest icon-play icon-plus icon-prev-sm icon-prev Search icon-twitter icon-views icon-instagram