In Italy, it was the first days of January when some newspapers started talking about mysterious pneumonia present in China.
Then, in the following weeks, while the situation was getting worse, the attention of the press on the subject became more and more present, turning the newspapers into a real daily bulletin on the number of victims, which just today exceeded 1000, on the number of contagions, over 42 thousand, and on the progress of laboratories all over the world desperately engaged in the search for a cure.
In the meantime, the first security measures have arrived from governments, from blocked flights to checks with thermo-scanners in airports and stations, to the compulsory quarantine for tourists coming from China, where the population has been strongly advised not to leave their homes.
But, what happens when the entire population of a city of over 24 million people locks themselves at home for days?
This is what is happening, for the past month, in the most important cities of China, where companies and shops have closed to prevent, or at least reduce, the possibility of contracting the new Coronavirus that is bringing one of the major superpowers in the world to its knees. Among them, of course, is the largest city in the country, Shanghai. People in the deserted streets can be counted on one hand and among them, luckily for us, is Nicole Chan.
I say ‘luckily’ because thanks to her, her work and her shots we have the opportunity to see what the current situation of the city is, but we also have the chance to have a retrospective, a representation of Shanghai more unique than rare, impossible in other circumstances.
The images that make up the photographic series entitled One Person City (一个人城市) were taken during the Chinese New Year – January 25th – which for the first time did not see endless crowds populating public spaces, did not see the classic parades that we try to reproduce in our cities, did not see people celebrating. The scenario is surreal, post-apocalyptic film-like, and like any scenario of an ongoing tragedy has the power and strength to frighten and attract us at the same time. The images of deserted shopping malls, clear six-lane streets, ferries with no one on board, empty crossings are scary, but they couldn’t be more beautiful.
Without the presumption of making artistic shots or with precise aesthetic research, Nicole Chan, who has dared to walk the streets of Shanghai, has succeeded in what should be the first goal of a photographer, or rather of an artist, to become the testimony of her time.