An Old Market in Shanghai


Markets like these are all over Shanghai. The largest part of the population is shopping here for meat, fish, vegetables, fruit and rice. There is no refrigeration, no air con. Meat is brought in on scooters or in little vans, fish is bought from the large fish market and brought in on a bit of ice, but not really cooled once it arrives.

Flies abound and in summer, the smell is strong and unpleasant. The people, however, are open and friendly (at least most of the time), some of them are reading, some are living right there, behind their stalls. Mobile phone use is high, and quite often the younger people will be on the phone while selling to you.

I shot these images of the market in summer 2009 and wanted to present them here unedited in all their raw grit.

On old, beat up ladle sits on an open bag of rice. The rice is measured and packed there on the spot and different types are on display. Hunks of meat lie on a table, ribs are hanging in the foreground, while a sales woman cuts a choice piece at this market in Shanghai. 

The meat is not cooled and probably not particularly well kept. This explains partly why all the meat is stir fried and cooked until well done, with more spices added the further South you go. Three sides of meat are hanging from old, hand smithed hooks in a wet market in Shanghai. In the background, a woman is looking at a hunk of meat to figure out how to cut it up.

The raw grit of the market caught my attention. With all it's glitz and gleaming facades, Shanghai is still largely a developing country, with appalling sanitary conditions and many needs for change. Deep in thought, a young man is studying his books at the market, while he is waiting for customers to buy  meat. A large, official notice is posted prominently to show that he is legit and his wares are fresh.

I found the contrast between the raw piece of meat on its hook and the dreamy, far away expression on his face speak volumes about the change that is engulfing China. Hand smithed, iron meat hooks hold up their pieces at an old market in Shanghai. No two of these hooks and rings are alike, all are individually hammered from iron rods and only roughly finished. They seem to be done in haste by an apprentice blacksmith, but somehow strike a note of nostalgia.

I liked the broken symmetry of the image, it's raw impact. Poultry is sitting in cages in a stark, white tiled room in a market in Shanghai. In the background, the bare chested proprietor is putting an end to one of them, readying it for his customer. In a corner is a machine that will pluck the feathers of the birds in a few seconds. 

The market had several stalls like this, each full of birds, their smell and stained liberally with blood and feathers. This stall was the cleanest that I saw that day. This old man reminded me of a turtle, as he was shopping for vegetables in this Shanghai market. White hair, deep set eyes, dark black eyes made him stand out. The wet market is full of fish in basins, or already gutted and ready to take home. This man was happily bantering with me, although his hand never left his knife on the table. In front, pomfret are lined up on the wooden counter and his arms and clothes are full of scales. Standing amidst his goods, a trader in rice, beans, oil and other canned goods smiles at the camera. Their stall was stuffed to the rafters with bottles and cans, sacks of rice and drums full of oil. The small counter features a poster with a modern, beautiful woman, electronic scales and a small assortment of noodles.

Set to one side of the market, these stall were fun to see and made for interesting discoveries of goods and people alike. Holding a plucked chicken in her hand, this market woman wanted me to buy, but I was not in the mood. Stained styrofoam containers, contrast with the clean chicken. A white tile counter, dark hands holding a wipe and dressed out chicken combine in this photo from a market in Shanghai. Neatly lined up, a black chicken lies between the white ones and their legs seem to point like fingers at the man selling them.

I like the contrast and starkness, but also the implied neatness geometry of the photo. Rice bags with neat labels made from thin slices of wood, denoting the type and origin form a simple composition of circles and diagonals. 

This stall was by far the cleanest and best arranged in the entire market and its Japanese proprietor proud, but also camera shy.

Tags: food market, people, china

Category: People

This old man reminded me of a turtle, as he was shopping for vegetables in this Shanghai market. White hair, deep set eyes, dark black eyes made him stand out.

Vegetable Shopping at the Market, Shanghai, China

This old man reminded me of a turtle, as he was shopping for vegetables in this Shanghai market. White hair, deep set eyes, dark black eyes made him stand out.