Originally from London, photographer Larry Hallegua moved to the Chinese city of Chengdu a couple of years ago to teach English as a foreign language after a friend suggested he try it out. Larry had previously spent three months teaching in Tokyo the year before and he was intrigued to “go back to the continent and discover more”.
Larry started to take photographs of Chengdu in order to assimilate himself with the new city. “I felt quite alien during the first few months of being there, although I often ventured into the centre, I was based in Xipu, on the outskirts of the city where few foreigners roamed so it wasn’t uncommon to receive daily stares,” he explains. “The photographs became a way for me to connect and adjust to my new surroundings and culture.”
Chengdu is in Sichuan and there’s a relaxed culture of tea drinking and playing card games and mahjong outside in communal areas. “Initially I wanted to capture some of that [culture], along with the colours, fashion and cultural idiosyncrasies of my new home,” Larry says. “The more I shot, the more the series developed into something wider, unintentionally touching on more social and even political themes at times.”
Larry’s street photography captures candid, unexpected moments as he wanders the city, documenting coincidences, visual gags and odd instances. “I am generally drawn to humorous, quirky, whimsical images, playing wth colours and patterns,” says Larry. This lighthearted and spontaneous nature to the series is helped by Larry simply taking pictures without his subjects knowledge, avoiding any interaction.
Made in Chengdu documents the city’s “growing sense of self-confidence, with sweeping economic change and social transformation”. Consumerism and westernisation have taken hold of Chengdu and it was recently named as one of China’s “pilot reform regions”. Larry explains: “It gives local authorities extraordinary powers to experiment and alongside its rapid growth in commercialism there has been huge investment into its infrastructure… Its population is expected to soon reach 20 million.” The humour and eccentricities presented in his series allows Larry to touch upon these bigger issues and observations taking place in what was once a city ruled by communism.
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