Tim Franco: Metamorpolis

The Shanghai-based French photographer Tim Franco follows and documents Chongqing’s great transformation since 2009, showing how people succeed and adapt when the development of the city around them is just so radical.

Tim Franco, <i>Metamorpolis</i>
Chongqing is one of the largest cities in China, and one that has recently undergone one of the most rapid urban developments in the world.
Tim Franco’s book Metamorpolis, that will be published in July, is a photographic collection and documentation of Chongqing’s bewildering scale, containing over 60 original images Tim Franco recorded over dozens of trips to the city across a fascinating five-year period.
Tim Franco, <i>Metamorpolis</i>
Tim Franco, Metamorpolis
The construction of China’s Three Gorges the largest hydro-electric power station in the world, meant relocating over a million people as the land they lived on at the time would be consumed by swelling reservoirs. A great number of those farmers, villagers, and small-town residents were suddenly thrust into Chongqing, a heaving industrial giant carved up by rivers and mountains. Hundreds of thousands of residents – young and old alike – had to find out how to exist in a city when many of them had never been to one before. And Chongqing’s population skyrocketed, to over 30 million people.
Tim Franco started travelling to Chongqing in 2009 to cover the then-city leader’s massive crackdown on a mafia that riddled the city. After a year of regular trips, he became aware of the disappearance of the oldest parts of the city, and started to shoot Chongqing’s brutal transformation: “My goal was to document how people succeed and adapt when the development of the city around them is just so radical.”
Tim Franco, <i>Metamorpolis</i>
Tim Franco, Metamorpolis
After more than five years in Chongqing, Tim Franco realised he was not documenting the grotesque changes of just one Chinese city, but of all of China: “Chongqing may be an extreme character, with its unique landscape and history, but it is the perfect representation of what all of China is experiencing.”
Tim Franco worked with a medium format camera film; the composition of his photography emphasises the distorted relationship between the human and the city, as Chongqing appears to engulf everything and everyone around it. In Tim Franco’s photography, Chongqing can become an ogre of a city, in which its residents play no part in deciding their their destiny.


Tim Franco is a French photographer who has been living and working in Shanghai, China, for over 10 years. He is a regular contributor to the international press, and has worked for many institutions in China. Some of his images from Chongqing have appeared in Le Monde, 6 Mois, the Dutch Financial Times, and the New York Times.

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