Alessandro Zanoni Uses Muted Colors to Tell the Story of Dusty Shanghai

All photos by Alessandro Zanoni. Used with permission.

A city has many faces, so there’s always something eye-catching or thought-provoking waiting to be uncovered by the discerning photographer. Shanghai, for example, is home to many fascinating subjects we’ve seen here so far — from architecture and street scenes, to documentary portraits and even abandoned symbols of childhood. This time, we take a look at the side of the city that perhaps has become an unlikely face of its present and impending future.

In his series Dust Never Sleeps, Milan-based photographer, graphic designer, and artist Alessandro Zanoni shares with us a vision of Shanghai that he describes as “a state of mind, both oneiric and limitless in its stillness.” Instead of the usual crowds, this dream-like part of the city appears to be filled instead by neat lines and composite geometry, while the rest of metropolis appears to fade in the background. A pervading, slightly ominous haze can also be seen in the distance. This is a Shanghai that is unfolding before the world today, a city becoming increasingly urban as time passes, suffering from a transformation that Zanoni sees “without any regard whatsoever to beauty.”

Zanoni also notes that the “diffused white that invades every layer of the images” is not fog, but plaster dust that wafts from the construction sites scattered across the city. In his captures, however, this prevalent demolition and reconstruction appear to be far away, and we are instead shown rare spots free of dizzying activity, with the presence of people reduced to a small, nondescript spot in the frame. The dust never sleeps in this growing, increasingly sophisticated city. And yet, Zanoni’s work suggests that one day, when the dust finally settles, we may see a Shanghai clear of all these quiet spots and empty corners.

Check out Alessandro Zanoni’s website and Behance portfolio to see more of his documentations of architecture and city life.