Images capture daily life in Shanghai 

“Shanghai Candid: Women in Motion,” an exhibition by Shanghai photographer Liang Yue, is presented by the San Francisco Arts Commission as part of the 2010 “Shanghai Celebration,” a yearlong event that honors San Francisco’s sister-city relationship with Shanghai.

The exhibition, on view in City Hall, may seem odd at first. It doesn’t contain picturesque or antique imagery that some Westerners might expect from a show about China. There’s an ordinary feeling about the images that stands out.

Twenty-five works in the exhibit showcase women in their daily lives in downtown Shanghai, which looks like a lot of Western cities.

If it weren’t for Chinese-language signs, the images could be views of any major U.S. city, even San Francisco. 

Yet upon an in-depth view, the common actions in the scenes — women shopping, looking at clothing store windows or simply walking — become an unexpected fascination.

Even minor details begin to attract your attention. In addition, the snapshot quality of the photos subverts any lingering impressions of Shanghai as an exotic location.

The scenes vary a great deal. In one, a woman holding a shopping bag climbs stairs. A puddle of water appears on the top of the first landing.

Another photo shows two women chatting while sitting at a bus stop bench. Their casual postures and the seeming unimportance of their conversation accents the scene’s “ordinary day” theme.

One image at the end of the show is particularly interesting because it’s the only one featuring a close-up of an individual in the photo’s center foreground: A woman looks out at nothing in particular, just staring into space.

In undermining any romantic preconceptions people might have, the nature of the imagery in “Shanghai Candid” encourages viewers to take a close, unblemished look at China’s contemporary reality, and consider similarities between modern culture in Shanghai and San Francisco.

Shanghai Candid: Women in Motion

San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, San Francisco
When: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; closes Sept. 4
Admission: Free
Contact: (415) 554-6080,

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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