13 Snapshots of Shanghai’s lesser known sides

photography by: Alen Ovuka

There’s probably no city more synonymous with China’s recent frenzy economic growth than Shanghai, transformed from a sleepy coastal town to a global megalopolis in a matter of two decades. While visitors, both domestic and foreigners, tend to marvel at its glassy skyscrapers and ultra-modern vibes, Shanghai has an overlooked facet, where ordinary people carry out their day-to-day tasks, living their mundane life alongside the city’s flashy side.

Introduction

In a short series of photos, Alen Ovuka tries to shed light on the lesser knowns sides of the city. Taken in PU XI area, Jing’an and the Former French Concession, the photos capture the constant metamorphosis that this giant metropolitan area constantly goes through, encountered when visitors deviate from the usual tourist routes and get lost in its concrete jungle. Given the fact that Shanghai is probably one of the safest cities in the world, getting lost is not only a must but highly enjoyable experience too.


Outside the formal and nondescript environment, where office and residential towers dominate the urban landscape, exists another side of Shanghai, small-scaled and visually overloaded with chaotic hodgepodge of signs, wires, planters and even sun-dried laundry.

photography by: Alen Ovuka


Maintaining the cleanness of a city that large requires an army of besom-equipped workers.

photography by: Alen Ovuka


A lady and her dog basking in the sun, strolling along a fashionable street. In recent years, pet ownership in big Chinese cities like Shanghai became more and more trendy.

photography by: Alen Ovuka


Just until three decades ago, bicycles were the main mean of transportation, encompassing all echelons of society. Nowadays, when cars are affordable for nearly all middle-class families, bicycles are used to bypass the country’s notorious traffic congestion.

photography by: Alen Ovuka


Old weighing scale, one of those myriads of relics from a different era you often bump into while wandering through the small streets of Shanghai.

photography by: Alen Ovuka


A woman burning papers representing “spirit money”, as part of a traditional Chinese ritual, where relatives burn fake banknotes to guarantee the afterlife prosperity of their deceased love ones.

photography by: Alen Ovuka


Whereas most streets built in modern-day China since 2000 are often exceedingly wide, Shanghai still has a more traditional urban layout, dominated by narrow alleys, where small scale restaurants and shops are abundant.

photography by: Alen Ovuka


Despite being originated from Beijing, Peking Duck is a staple Chinese dish favored by many locals, evident by the city’s numerous eateries preparing this delicacy, known for its tender meat and crisp skin.

photography by: Alen Ovuka


Supposedly brewing its own alcoholic beverages, this quaint little shop sells homemade rice wine, a popular drink in the rice-loving nation of China.

photography by: Alen Ovuka


A noodle factory in the heart of Shanghai, one of many micro workshops that still survive despite the country’s massive industrialization. If you pay attention, you’ll notice a feline inspector, overlooking the diligent laborers.

photography by: Alen Ovuka


Yet another typical sight in Shanghai, featuring unrestrained chaos of infrastructure and household items, coalescing into one fascinating urban mosaic, that despite its perceived repulsiveness, draws a lot of attention and curiosity.

photography by: Alen Ovuka


A humongous residential building in Jing’an district, in recent years Shanghai has witnessed a construction boom of many residential complexes, housing the never-ending influx of people from all over the country, enticed by the city’s miraculous economic success.

photography by: Alen Ovuka


Many housing projects throughout the city are often dominated by a cacophony of air conditioning units and countless different windows, and while the bulk of us might regard that sight as an eyesore, it does reflect an urban vibrancy.

photography by: Alen Ovuka


About Me

A Traveler, and an occasional street snapper.

Born in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, over the last 30 years lived and worked in London, Hong Kong, currently based in Shanghai.

My photos are often the response of a place in relation to Sarajevo, as the scenes are culture tensions, taken out of their original context and are whatever the beholder understands them to be. I like playing with fiction, so what you see is not a documentary of time and space, therefore it’s completely up to you how to interpret each and every photo.

 

For more of Alen’s works:
Alen’s Instagram
Alen’s Flickr

photography by: Alen Ovuka