These incredible photographs document the hidden world of one of Shanghai’s endangered suburbs, Gubei, before it is destroyed to make way for a new modern compound. Photographer Robin Mas ventured into the neighborhood in 2011 and began collecting stories and capturing touching portraits of local residents either in their homes or on the streets. In the run-up to the neighborhood's demolition, Mas set about creating an interactive exhibition of his works in ‘Adios, Green Village’ to pay homage to the people whose lives are about to be irrevocably changed.
Residents of Gubei are predominantly migrant workers. After gaining their trust, Mas began taking photos of them, but not without some hurdles: at first people were suspicious, asking him why he was not taking photos of the Bund – the high-rise skyline that emulates modern China. He was also criticized for attempting to present how dirty the country is to foreign press.
This, however, could not be further from what Mas hoped to achieve. He told Inhabitat that he hoped to create more of a “social observation,” that ‘Adios’ offers a poignant look at a space that is rarely seen and will not exist for much longer. This is a story that is unfortunately common; as cities expand gentrification forces locals to make way for the plush homes of the rich. Shanghai is no different, and as China booms and workers flock to take advantage of all the city has to offer, expansion is necessary. These haunting images tell a different tale, providing an insider’s look at the life of locals who will have to leave the only home they’ve ever known.
A final exhibition was designed to empower Gubei’s residents and bring the inner city artistic community to the suburban outskirts. As such, the photos were exhibited around the neighbourhood, and organizers arranged a kind of “treasure-hunt” interaction using maps and QR codes. And during the event, by timely coincidence, construction crews started demolishing buildings, demonstrating the neighborhood’s ultimate fate to visitors.
Images courtesy of Robin Mas