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Totems: contemporary China through the lens of Alain Delorme

Alain Delorme is a talented French fine art photographer based in Paris. In her series titled Totems, Delorme captures aspects of contemporary China and its complexity, highlighting the effects of the expansion of China’s economy through pictures of small workers in the Shanghai streets.

The new Totems series by Alain Delorme plunges us into the core of contemporary China and its complexity. Under the blue sky of a highly colored Shanghai, men carry throughout the city unbelievable piles. These precarious columns made of cardboard or chairs appear as new totems of a society in complete transformation, both a factory for the world and a new El Dorado of the market economy. Like Eugène Atget did in Paris at the turn of the century, Alain Delorme seems here to draw the portrait of the small workers in the Shanghai streets. While one is usually fascinated by the delusion of grandeur of Chinese society, Alain Delorme chooses to focus on the individuals running around the city. In terms of form, the author diverges from a documentary style and its affected neutrality, still adopting some frontality. The image is organized in horizontal strata, like in an archeological section. From the sidewalk to the building, the grounds are positioned at intervals and allow different urban temporalities to coexist: the everyday life, the ephemeral, the unceasing move of the passers-by, and the great transformations, building sites and new towers. Beyond the balance of these compositions, the author breaks the rules of the documentary genre, playing with the edit and the color to present us a type of “augmented reality”, bringing into light the paradoxes of the most dynamic city of China.

Alain Delorme

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