Dave Tacon has focused his lens on the glossy decadence of Shanghai, which is undergoing a boom in wealth and self-indulgence not seen since the 1930s. Dripping with diamonds, and partying to excess, the young elite of Shanghai is shown dancing the night away in nightclubs that they were previously banned from entering.
“I suppose I’m attracted to cities with bad reputations,” says Dave. “Before I first visited Shanghai in 2010, I read the book Shanghai: The Rise and Fall of a Decadent City by Stella Dong. This inspired me to see if there are any connections between the hedonistic Shanghai of the past and the Shanghai of today.
“I always had my camera with me when I went out in the evening and was interested in shooting the Chinese club scene as social documentary, rather than as stereotypical event photography of grinning, posing partygoers. I wanted to give the feeling of being an observer within this theme park of hedonism.”
Most of Shanghai’s luxury nightlife still takes place around the Bund, the city’s historic waterfront built during a century of colonial rule. By the 1930s, the swampy port of Shanghai, divided into British, French and international concessions – each exempt from Chinese law – had grown into one of the world’s most famous skylines. It was largely built with drug money from the opium trade, and the price paid by the Chinese was humiliation and exploitation.
Dave’s extensive collection of images seems to capture the bygone era of debauchery, and mingles it with today’s celebrations of excess. Bright bubblegum colours and reportage-style captures of fleeting expressions make the viewer feel as if they are glancing into worlds within bubbles – frozen moments of nightclub frenzy. But the challenges of taking the photos were many.
Dave Tacon is a Shanghai-based photographer and writer. He is the 2012 winner of the Walkley Award for Best Freelance Journalist of the Year and a two-time finalist in Australia’s National Photographic Portrait Prize. His work has appeared in such publications as Rolling Stone, Newsweek, Wall Street Journal, CNN, Al Jazeera. GEO, Stern, Der Spiegel and many more. He is available for assignment throughout Asia.