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Sunday, November 22, 2020, 10:24
City dreamers
By Zhang Lei
Sunday, November 22, 2020, 10:24 By Zhang Lei

This undated photo shows workers on top of Qiantan Center, Shanghai. (HU ZHIMIN / FOR CHINA DAILY)

I am an enterprise manager at the Shanghai Construction Engineering Group, and photography is my biggest hobby, taking up most of my spare time. It has been dozens of years since I bought the Seagull DF-1, the first camera in my life, with the six months of income I saved in 1984.

By chance, I participated in a photography activity on the theme of "Finding the Most Beautiful People". During my exploration, I suddenly realized and discovered around me a group of such beautiful people-the construction builders in the city. As a member of the construction industry, it gives him an inbuilt advantage than outsiders, and I also have the responsibility and obligation to the public by record the worthwhile endeavor of these builders.

From then on, I began to focus on photographing urban construction and the builders, especially now that China's development has attracted world attention and admiration. The era of great development has created space and potential for the art of photography, and it has also nurtured the public with lots of wonderful and touching moments.

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Raffles City on the North Bund, Tilan Bridge area, Hongkou district, Shanghai (263 meters high, 50 floors). Structure installation workers hoist steel components. (HU ZHIMIN / FOR CHINA DAILY)

In recent years, I have been mainly focused on photographing urban high-rise construction, as skyscrapers are the representatives of urban elements. In these buildings the spirit and wisdom of the modern builders are on full display, and all such fresh faces reveal the trajectory of urban development.

The BRICS New Development Bank Headquarters Building (150 meters high, 30 floors) in Shanghai Pudong Free Trade Zone. The tower crane driver controls the boom over the Expo Park site. (HU ZHIMIN / FOR CHINA DAILY)

Outer steel frame installation on Gao Shang Domain (51 storeys, 280 meters high), Tongchuan Road, Putuo district, Shanghai. (HU ZHIMIN / FOR CHINA DAILY)

Workers put steel components in place on Raffles City, Shanghai. (HU ZHIMIN / FOR CHINA DAILY)

This group of photos is a selection of tens of thousands of photos I have taken over a period of more than four years taking advantage of various opportunities. It is also a representative work of my Architect series of documentary photography. In pursuit of the authenticity of the photos, I often get up earlier and return home later than the builders, greet the first ray of light in the city in the morning, and feel the splendor of urban neon in the night.

Of course, concentration alone is not the guarantee of quality photos, but sincerity and perseverance are needed to capture the simplicity and sincerity of these city builders. Among the selected photos, the photographing experience at the construction site of the Qiantan Center Building in Shanghai Pudong Free Trade Zone touched me very much deep.

Steel structure hoisting on Qiantan Center (280 meters, 56 floors), Shanghai. (HU ZHIMIN / FOR CHINA DAILY)

At the beginning of the filming, the workers often asked me to leave for reasons such as affecting their work. I used my professional knowledge as a national registered supervision engineer with more than 20 years of experience to discuss with them the various issues encountered in construction and installation operations. They also provided reasonable suggestions many times to help solve some small problems on the spot.

Gradually, their attitude changed. Coupled with the habit of going to the construction site for many years, I always rushed to the construction site to take pictures for everyone during holiday, so that the builders can share it with their families. In this way, everyone began to accept me and I thus became the "director photographer" of the workers. Moreover, as time goes by, they all know my focus, and they would even take the initiative to call me at every key construction period and invite me to take photos.

Hu Zhimin takes advantage of the work break to take pictures for the workers on Gao Shang Domain, Shanghai. (HU ZHIMIN / FOR CHINA DAILY)

Tower crane standard section lifting on Suhewan Center (204 meters high, 43 floors), Jing'an district, Shanghai. (HU ZHIMING / FOR CHINA DAILY)

Another time I was particularly moved was during the filming of Elevated Neon. I kept photographing from noon to evening. I always felt that the light was not in place, and I hadn't caught the scene of the neon flow in the picture. After knowing my thoughts, they took the initiative to work overtime to accompany me to complete the shooting. Looking back on those days, I believe what I harvest most is not the work itself, but the friendship of thousands of builders.

This undated photo shows construction workers at work at night in Shanghai, China. (HU ZHIMIN / FOR CHINA DAILY)

Today, Shanghai has become one of the most dazzling cities on the west coast of the Pacific Ocean. Modernization has made the city more attractive than ever, and the city has made people's lives more and more exciting. For me, a person who witnesses and records the changes of the times is fortunate. As long as there is a spirit of perseverance and innovation, all efforts will be full of vitality. With the cloud as my company, I am looking for new landmarks in the city between the sky and the earth; together with the focus, I am seeking new memories of the times in every inch.

The photographer's narrative is translated by Zhang Lei.


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