Photos and photography
are ubiquitous today, from Facebook and Twitter to Instagram
and Linkedin, to mention but the most prominent. We see selfies,
meals, cute kitties and random shots of ‘everything’
around us. Life seems to be lived by sharing images with the
world documenting everything from the mundane to serious crimes,
and it's all available with a touch of the screen. Despite the
over abundance of images we never tire of the visual. Most of
us are not really serious photographers but there are those
who create cohesive essays with a more serious intention and
a different point of view. Tim Gao's photos are the opposite
of selfies or posed.
IN HIS OWN WORDS
I was born in 1986,
my name is Tim Gao and I am a freelance portrait photographer
based in Shanghai, China. I have lived in Shanghai for
over nine years and I explore Shanghai, where urban city and
residential lanes are hidden and unknown to me and impact my
emotional attachment to the city.
I grew up in a small
village called Xilai, in northern Jiangsu Province. The folks
were good and the village was surrounded almost entirely by
open fields and countryside -- far away from big noisy city.
As children we explored the countryside and played games after
school or during holidays. I will never forget the happy times
I spent there with my parents and playmates. I miss the precious
fragments of past memories and sometimes I have a feeling that
what draws me to taking photographs is nostalgia for an idyllic
past. I try to record the ephemeral and reconstruct it into
a new and multi-layered world – the paradise of my lost
When I was browsing around the college library one sunny afternoon,
I was deeply moved and surprised by a photography book of Henri
Cartier-Bresson. I still remember a comprehensive photographic
collection of his works, including images of Shanghai in the
late 1940s, in a straight and yet humorous way. That was around
2009 and one year later I became obsessed by taking street photographs.
It was 2012 when I started thinking of making a serious photography
project. Since then I have been persistently shooting Shanghai
streets. I consider these photographs as a form of private diary
rather than as an art pursuit. I walk the streets and take snapshots
around me in a quiet relaxed manner and I feel elated.
photography is not just a sharp triggering of shutter to shape
the outside world in the form of light and shadow. It is simultaneously
a curious observation and emotional perception of what’s
happening in ordinary streets at any moment when unpredictable
dramas and realities are actually taking place.
I find it a magical experience of street photography that when
clicking the shutter, not only the present, but also the past
of the street -- where the imprints and smells of daily life
remain -- is frozen in time. Street photography not only enables
me to create a documentary view of the unique Shanghai street
and the culture behind it, but also reveals the extraordinary
and metaphorical aspect of Shanghai – a mixture of mystery,
nostalgia and unease.
You can find Tim’s photographs of Shanghai street project
on his website
or drop him a line if you are interested in his work at