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Photographers record rapid pace of change in Shanghai

(picture: Ferit Kuyas)

The rapidly changing face of Shanghai is also a photogenic one, as can be seen from the work of the three Swiss photographers in a new exhibition at the Swiss Camera museum in Vevey.

Ferit Kuyas, Edy Brunner and Marco Paoluzzo travelled together several times to one of the world's biggest and fastest-growing cities for their joint-assignment. But once there they worked independently, and only met in the evenings to compare notes. "We were like fishermen discussing the size and quality of their catch during the day," says Kuyas.

And what a catch. The result of their spending several weeks in Shanghai is a multi-faceted portrait of a huge metropolis and its inhabitants in stark black and white.

So rapid is the construction work in the Chinese city that the photographers noticed major changes with each visit they made. Some old quarters were disappearing to make way for highways and new high-rise buildings, many of high architectural standards.

Despite the loss of old Shanghai, Kuyas - who has made fascinating studies of some of the city's best examples of modern architecture - is generally positive about the changes. "It's also exciting to see new things grow," he said.

Marco Paoluzzo concentrated on the inhabitants, individually and in groups, and it was not always easy: "It's difficult to take photographs of people in China because many of them really don't like it," he said. "So I had to steal most of them, and work very fast so they didn't notice they were being photographed."

A book, published by Editions Stemmle, has been published with the exhibition, and both have been timed to commemorate 50 years of Chinese-Swiss diplomatic relations.

by Richard Dawson