Alain Delorme’s series Totems looks at Shanghai’s migrant workers.

They bear the physical brunt of the fast-paced economy by hauling wares on their bikes and carts, like improvised trucks.

Delorme alters the photos with Photoshop to exaggerate the loads his subjects carry and heighten that sense of consumption.

Compared to the typical symbols that stand in for China’s economic growth in photographs, "these migrants are even more impressive," Delorme says.

They appear "in the first place like a superhero able to carry around this kind of load."

"But, very quickly, we have the feeling that the objects he is carrying are about to swallow him up, that he is overwhelmed by them … just like the consumer is."

"It is above all a way to make people think about the consumer society we live in via the ‘Made in China’ phenomenon, with all its identical and exchangeable objects produced in big quantities."

"To what extent can we play with reality to get the viewer to ask questions?"

The migrants are a stand in for global consumer society at large. In Delorme’s words. "[W]e are the servants of all these objects that we desire and wish to own, prompted by adverts."

The migrants are a stand in for global consumer society at large. In Delorme’s words. "[W]e are the servants of all these objects that we desire and wish to own, prompted by adverts."

The migrants are a stand in for global consumer society at large. In Delorme’s words. "[W]e are the servants of all these objects that we desire and wish to own, prompted by adverts."

The migrants are a stand in for global consumer society at large. In Delorme’s words. "[W]e are the servants of all these objects that we desire and wish to own, prompted by adverts."

The migrants are a stand in for global consumer society at large. In Delorme’s words. "[W]e are the servants of all these objects that we desire and wish to own, prompted by adverts."

The migrants are a stand in for global consumer society at large. In Delorme’s words. "[W]e are the servants of all these objects that we desire and wish to own, prompted by adverts."

The migrants are a stand in for global consumer society at large. In Delorme’s words. "[W]e are the servants of all these objects that we desire and wish to own, prompted by adverts."

The migrants are a stand in for global consumer society at large. In Delorme’s words. "[W]e are the servants of all these objects that we desire and wish to own, prompted by adverts."

The migrants are a stand in for global consumer society at large. In Delorme’s words. "[W]e are the servants of all these objects that we desire and wish to own, prompted by adverts."

The migrants are a stand in for global consumer society at large. In Delorme’s words. "[W]e are the servants of all these objects that we desire and wish to own, prompted by adverts."

2013-03-22

Co.Exist

Look At These Chinese Workers Carrying Mind-Blowing Amounts Of Stuff

Shanghai’s migrant workers are the foundation of China’s economy, ferrying goods around the city on their bicycle. But if these photos of them look impossible, that’s because they are. Their loads have been digitally increased as part of a photo project on the Chinese economy and global consumerism.

Many outsiders looking in at China tend to focus on the group over the individual: the factory floors, the crowded classrooms, the high-speed trains, and the gleaming skyscrapers built to efficiently accommodate and maximize value from a rather homogenous group of people. On the other hand, French photographer Alain Delorme, decided to zero in on the individual in his series Totems—specifically, Shanghai’s migrants who bear the physical brunt of the fast-paced economy by hauling wares on their bikes and carts, like improvised trucks.

Compared to the typical symbols that stand in for China’s economic growth in photographs, "these migrants are even more impressive," Delorme says, appearing "in the first place like a superhero able to carry around this kind of load. But, very quickly, we have the feeling that the objects he is carrying are about to swallow him up, that he is overwhelmed by them … just like the consumer is."

Delorme alters the photos with Photoshop to exaggerate the loads his subjects carry and heighten that sense of consumption. "To what extent can we play with reality to get the viewer to ask questions?" He says the works investigate globalization and consumerism. "But it is above all a way to make people think about the consumer society we live in via the ‘Made in China’ phenomenon, with all its identical and exchangeable objects produced in big quantities."

Doing its bidding, the migrants are a stand in for global consumer society at large. In Delorme’s words. "[W]e are the servants of all these objects that we desire and wish to own, prompted by adverts."

Add New Comment

23 Comments

  • Dylan Burge

    I agree with some of the other people who posted; altering the photos detracts from the potential impact of these images.

  • Petermadson

    Too bad these are so heavily (and poorly) photoshopped.  I live in Shanghai and the unaltered images are more impressive.  My favorite are the guys who haul styrofoam.  Because it is so lightweight, the volume that they can carry is just insane - bigger than the city busses.  

    BTW - Try to fix the light source inconsistencies.  Shadows should all be going in the same direction at least...

  • Rick Dolishny

    Far too much image manipulation for my taste. The fact that the article doesn't present them as fabricated images suggests a bit of deception. 

  • José Carlos G. Ribeiro

    I can't help trying to visualize people piling this load onto a bike. What do they use? Ladders? Scaffolding?

  • Gabrielle Miller

    I'd like to see unaltered photos. I would find that way more interesting, this is art, and should be framed as such since there is no documentation explaining how the photographer decided how much stuff to add to each person's load. 

  • Guest

    Deceptive title.  Not cool.  Try "look at these PHOTOSHOPPED chinese workers..." I don't appreciate being tricked for my clicks.

  • Reallythen

    You are absolutely correct. It is important not to publish altered photos without a prominent disclaimer on each image - images that will get copied and posted as "fact" are already a public nuisance.  Jerry doesn't use Photoshop or he would be able to detect the fake parts of  these photos.

  • Jerry Howe

    I doubt that these are photshopped. You are someone that needs to travel to places like India or China for a reality check. You have been in America or  Britain. too long

  • Ned Young

    "Delorme alters the photos with Photoshop to exaggerate the loads his subjects carry and heighten that sense of consumption"

    There are many REAL photographs from China of people cycling with enormous and incredible loads. It's part of daily life and these real photographs (which many people are already familiar with) are obviously the inspiration for this series of photo-shopped fabrications.

    Problem is, many people are often unable to tell the difference between a real image and a photo shopped one. These fabricated images will be copied and pasted all over the internet, on social media sites etc, without any attribution or a link to an explanation of the purpose of the images. Instead they'll be presented as 'authentic' images by kids on Facebook, for example.  This destroys the awe which the real photo's inspired and devalues them. 

  • Max Hodges

    wake up Zak! why would the article fail to mention they are constructed in Photoshop from composites and retouched as hell? I'm be hesitant to call them photographs. When you paint a picture from a photo, you call it a painting not a photograph. Perhaps "digital art" is a better label?

  • Zak Stone

    "Delorme alters the photos with Photoshop to exaggerate the loads his subjects carry and heighten that sense of consumption." 

  • Me

    I love the editing on the photos. The sharp, bright, surreal look is very engaging to me.

  • Jen

    Me too!

    I think most of the loads are actually realistic - not increased in size. I live in Shanghai and I see people riding bikes with loads exactly like this every week. 

    (except the water one, never seen that 3-story contraption, but that doesn't mean it's not out there somewhere!)

    It's the very sharp editing that looks fantastical to me as well. I love it! 

  • Windmillman

    Interesting and nicely done photos, but I am confused about have any need to alter them in Photo Shop. I live and work in Central China and see such events occur on a daily basis. One of my favorites is the guys who deliver welding gas tanks on motorcycles with side cars without any caps to protect the valves, careening through traffic. Makes life exciting    

  • Familiar sight

    Indeed very nice collection. 

    Can't see any welding gas tanks picture . Are you referring to the blue water bottle ?

  • 124311056

    Can't you see they are not as heavey has they seems. They are empty boxes, bottles and cotton stuffed toys.