Representations of Post-Industrial Shanghai

Industrial Chronotopes in Documentary Photography


  • Joaquin LOPEZ MUGICA Wenzhou-Kean University
  • Thomas William WHYKE University of Nottingham Ningbo China



documentary photography, chronotope, time, modernity, post-modernity, socio-cultural semiotic representation


This article explores how vernacular aesthetics have been re-appropriated from pictorial to modern documentary photography over the past century to instigate a modern collective imagination of the industrial disintegration in the Chinese urban milieu. Within the scope of a discursive visual process, Jean Philippe Gauvrit (b.1963) documents the departure of the industrial urban society in his photo-essay Shanghai in JP Gauvrit (2008). The paper claims that Gauvrit’s documentary photography can be understood as a visual critical discourse of several representational perspectives of time that render visible anachronistic and new social structures that come into being: between utopias of the past and visions of the future in an alternative chronotopic ‘present’ cartography. Drawing on Bakhtin’s (1981) conception of chronotope, in this study, the sublime industrial comes to be represented as an intelligible reconfiguration of linear and cyclical time. By linking that socio-economic reality of that time with a collective consciousness, documentary photography can serve as a chronotope that reveals both the tension and the assimilation relating to the historical myths that lie between the fall of an industrial mode of production and the birth of a post-industrial cultural city in an era of de-industrialization.


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How to Cite

LOPEZ MUGICA, J., & WHYKE, T. W. (2024). Representations of Post-Industrial Shanghai: Industrial Chronotopes in Documentary Photography. Asian Studies, 12(1), 355–387.