As a budding photographer at the time, Xu found himself drawn to the urban ruins — old areas demolished to make way for new construction — rather than the sprouting high-rises. He then turned his lens to the people affected by the city’s rapid development as well as those riding the tide in pursuit of a better life. His work has captured the city and its people at a moment of drastic change.
“Shanghai felt like a construction site then,” says Xu in an interview. Highways sprang up one after another along his daily commute to work, while people had to wait longer for buses as construction obstructed traffic. They stretched their necks in vain, looking “frustrated at having no control over the circumstances, and yet the wait could be seen as a symbol for hope,” he tells The Paper, Sixth Tone’s sister publication.