While so much has changed in Shanghai between then and now, not much has changed at all, this in many respects.

When this image was taken, they were putting in the finishing touches to the Oriental Pearl Tower, then the tallest structure in China. Other than that, there was little else there in the Pudong district – which is now home to some of the tallest structures in the world.

Shanghai Metro

Also, at that time, there was basically no mass rail transit system to speak of. The first line, connecting up 4 stations, was opened in May, 1993. Today, the story is very different. Shanghai Metro is now the largest mass transit system in the world by route length – totalling some 802 kilometres. It is also ranks as the second biggest by the number of stations – with 408 stations on 19 lines. Over 10 million people use the system on an average workday.

The Humble Bicycle

At this time, save for the ubiquitous red Volkswagen Passat taxis, there was little in the way of private transport, be these cars or motorcycles. At the time, rush hour in Shanghai was mainly made up of bicycles. On a rainy day this usually made for a spectacular if not unique sight as a colourful sea of umbrellas and cyclist clad in all manner of rain wear snaked its way along the main thoroughfares in the Puxi area of the city. That was Shanghai then.

Today, while the humble bicycle may no longer reign supreme in this mega city, it is still one of the principle forms of transport. Wherever you go you will still see bicycles – this along side motorcycles of one type or other, taxis, public transport and private cars. The Shanghainese still ride their bicycles as if they still own the road and this is as it should be. Here the bicycle is still respected as are the people who ride them.

Retracing Steps

In recent trips to Shanghai, I’ve tried retracing my first steps through that part of the city where the above image was taken and, in so doing, have tried to relocate the area where I took this image. As yet, I haven’t quite succeeded. All I know is that I took the picture in what was once referred to as the French Concession or District and not too far from The Bund. The buildings in this area don’t seem to have changed that much and while, at rush hour, there are more motor cycles than there are bicycles, the scenes here are much the same.

Now, to find that exact location. May leave this for another time.

More images from this collection can be found here, China Road.

The basic remit of this, The Lost Years Project, is to raise funds to bring this image together with its associated body of work and other related photography done between 1976 to around 1994 together, to digitise the negatives from which these images are derived and then, to create various products such as prints, print portfolios and books featuring this photography. There is a wealth of photography here that should find its way into the public realm – one way or the other. The PDF eBooks I have on offer here are but a small token of this effort. There’s a lot more from where all this came.

About Rogan Coles
With over four decades of professional working experience in the field, Rogan produces images that are telling and compelling. His expertise in corporate branding and architectural photography has earned him a reputation as an accomplished professional in these fields. On the flipside – Rogan’s passion is social documentary photography and visual storytelling. As a visual storyteller, Rogan brings his own unique perspective to each of his projects, capturing the essence of the story being told. Rogan has worked extensively on architectural, corporate and editorial assignments across Asia, in the UK, Canada and across southern Africa.

Rogan Coles Photo Archive Behance
LinkedIn Instagram
Flickr Facebook

TECHNICAL NOTES: The camera used in the making of this image was a Canon F-1 and a Canon FD28mm f/2.8 SC lens. The film used was likely to have been Ilford HP5 and developed in Ilford’s Ilfotec HC, a black and white film developer.

This article was originally written and published on January 11, 2014 on a predecessor to this website and uploaded here on 12 June, 2018.
140111/revised 230314

Please consider donating to help with the ongoing development of this website.