Shanghai 1983

I found two travelers have the photo sets on flickr.
Leroy W. Demery, Jr.’s photstream is here

He arrived in Shanghai on the afternoon of 1983 October 1, by passenger ship from Qingdao.
He posted the notes about it.

I quickly gained the impression of a large, dynamic city – frozen in time. No building that I saw appeared “new.” The overall impression of the districts of Shanghai I visited was that “most everything” had been built “before 1950.”

I read about new housing developments on the fringes, near large industrial complexes, but did not visit these areas. I had seen this type of development in Datong and Fushun. Visiting the Caoyang new town, for example, might have been very interesting. However, although at least one guidebook mentioned this area … it did not mention the location.

“To get a feel for Shanghai, you have to walk its streets,” wrote guidebook author Graham Earnshaw. This I did, camera in hand, to every part of the city served by trolleybus. I might have gone elsewhere if there was something interesting to see. However, as noted previously, “guidebook-type” information in English was scarce at 1983.

My recollections of Shanghai’s “atmosphere” must be put into context. I grew up in Los Angeles, which, in the geographic sense, is not just “large,” not merely “huge,” but “enormous.” I was therefore quite used to “big” cities.

Contrary to common impression, parts of Los Angeles are very crowded, and have been so for a number of years. So, a “big, crowded” city was … well, nothing new. Shanghai, for me, was not in any sense “overwhelming.”

Shanghai probably “feels” much more “busy” and “crowded” today than “back then.” The city had very few motor vehicles compared to today. The amount of noise generated by street traffic must have been much less than today. Today’s street traffic must make Shanghai feel much more “hurried” than at 1983.

I did not want to “photograph trolleybuses.” Instead, I wanted to photograph the various parts of the city – and its residents – that were served by trolleybus.

A photographer captures an instant, a moment, and creates an image of this moment. The image does not change, but the subject might.

… I suppose I understood this as a point of philosophy. However, I did not imagine that China – and, in particular, Shanghai – would change so dramatically in “just” 25 years.

I do like the photos he took. It lead my memory back to my childhood.
Photos here

Slide show here.

I remember this one. Chongqing South Road (重庆南路) at Jianguo East Road (建国东路), 1983. The building at left has the look of an old tramcar depot (!). This is No.3 tramcar depot, if I am not wrong

Let’s look at Line 17.

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This image is in 建国东路, Jiànguó dōnglù, at 重庆南路, Chóngqìng nánlù. 1983 October 12.

I do like these photographers. They saved the images of my mind.

I miss my homeland.