Where to take photos in Shanghai

I’m back from OLPC’s two-week trip to Shanghai for the factory bringup of our XO-4 Touch laptop. It was a successful bringup; the prototype laptops are making their way out to developers now.

One of the reasons I look forward to these trips is the chance to get to hang out with my Taiwanese coworker Gary Chiang, who’s both an extremely talented engineer and an amazing photographer.

Before we got to Shanghai, I tried to look online for places to go to take photos during the downtime on our trip, but I mostly just found pointers to the standard guide book places. Gary took me to a bunch of excellent places that weren’t in the guide book; I’m writing about them here so that maybe you can go too. (All photos are available under CC-BY-SA 3.0.)

1933 Shanghai Slaughterhouse (虹口区沙泾路10号)

This is an Art Deco concrete slaughterhouse for cows, designed by the British architects Balfours and built in 1933. It’s been restored and converted into a space for creative companies as well as cafes. Lots of people come here to take photographs; pre-wedding shoots, cosplayers, everything. It’s got a strong M. C. Escher feel, with narrow “skyway” walkways going between the different floors.

Gary has an interesting theory that architects do their best/riskiest work in foreign countries, where they’re mostly immune from criticism by their own country’s media; no-one cares if your wacky art deco concrete idea doesn’t work as long as it’s not at home.

More photos in this set.

Shanghai Film Park (松江区车墩镇北松公路4915号)

This is one of China’s largest active outdoor movie studios, with impressively open access — you can walk around previously-used sets as well as people on shoots. There are all kinds of “fake” buildings: a church, prison, boat, train station, an “old Shanghai” area, big western houses, and lots of very old cars.

In the final shot below there are extras eating lunch on a break from their shoot.

More photos in this set.

Tianzifang (田子坊 泰康路艺术街)

Tianzifang’s a preserved shikumen residential area, with high terraced houses and narrow alleyways, now used as a mix of housing and art/crafts/tourist shops. It’s very touristy in recent years, but still worth seeing.

More photos in this set.

Zhujiajiao (朱家角)

Zhujiajiao is an ancient (about 1700 years old) water town: a town built around the intersection of different rivers. It took me a while to figure out that some of the best things to see in Shanghai are small trips (40 minutes by car) away. Zhujiajiao is one of the smaller water towns, which has the advantage that it’s not packed with tourists.

More photos in this set.

50 Moganshan Road (莫干山路50号)

The center of contemporary Chinese art in Shanghai, it’s a warehouse complex converted into studio and gallery space. Lots of street art nearby, too.

More photos in this set.


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