I didn’t know much about the emotional impact of building a home in a city undergoing rapid urbanization. I simply thought I wanted to live in a seaside metropolis with an infamous skyline, and walk along sidewalks where crisscrossed overpasses hover over my head. I moved to Shanghai in August.
During the following winter, I found myself spending most of my days staring at my computer screen at the office or in my concrete apartment sitting idle, listening to the highway constructions. Occasionally, I took up assignments to photograph cocktail parties and ate at a new restaurant every evening.
At that time, I had no idea Chongming Island was a part of Shanghai, or that it even existed. A friend told me about a Shanghai-based sound artist who was working on preserving memories of the changing island through over 500 hours of field recording collection. He organized a field recording trip to the island. I wonder why I signed up to help collect sounds.
Early one morning, a few of us packed our bicycles in a van and drove an hour north from the heart of Shanghai. We passed Pudong’s commercial skyscrapers and its barren construction sites, and crossed the bridge to the island’s vast green fields.
It had stopped raining by the time we unloaded the bicycles, but the air was thick with humidity. Out of habit, I had brought my camera along with me. I let the field recorder run in my coat pocket, hung my camera strap around my neck, and snapped photos as we slowly biked around the island.
The beautiful island of Chong Ming has been formed over several centuries by the silt of the Yangtze River. It is the third largest island in China, and the largest alluvial island in the world. In the ancient times, Chong Ming Dao was called ‘East Sea Ying Zhou’ (东海颍州), a floating island searched by many but never found.
Sewon Chung is a photographer and media artist. Her work combines narrative storytelling with participatory media. She holds a BA from the College of William and Mary, where she studied Literature and Cultural Theory. She currently resides in Kunming, documenting the city’s disappearing bike lanes. She is interested in the human experience of mutable urban spaces.