Howard French’s Images of Shanghai

The writer who can really shoot—the dream of generations of penny-pinching newspaper editors—is the rarest of creatures. Because I’ve failed at it enough times to know the difference between snapping off a few frames between interviews and really seeing a story, I’ve decided that it demands competing sections of the brain, operating in binary fashion: one on, the other off. Howard French, alas, proves otherwise. After a career in Africa, the Caribbean, Central America, and Asia, much of it as a bureau chief for the Times, French has published “Disappearing Shanghai: Photographs and Poems of an Intimate Way of Life” a chronicle of five years in Shanghai, with writing by Qiu Xiaolong (and an introduction by Teju Cole). French’s photos are intimate, unadorned, black-and-white. They capture moments at the center of a Chinese city in a way that is faithful to those of us who know these places, without resorting to the usual Porsche-beside-a-donkey images of today’s China.

Photography, Shanghai