Totems by Alain Delorme
Stacks on Stacks on Stacks
When French photographer Alain Delorme arrived in Shanghai, he was immediately struck by the dizzying energy of the city—with over 14 million residents in perpetual flux, the city is not for the faint of heart. Delorme boarded his bicycle and spent the next 44 days traversing Shanghai, taking pictures of porters as they wheeled televisions, wicker chairs, and heavy packages across the sprawling city. Thus began Totems.
Delorme spent hours in post-production arranging and rearranging the various wares he had photographed until they towered precariously on the trailers and wagons of Shanghai’s migrant workers. In Totems, the grueling labor of moving a mattress is amplified to Herculean proportions, with the couriers carrying dozens of bundled beds on the back of their bikes. It could be said that cities like Shanghai are temples of capitalism. As such, the pieces of luggage hauled from place to place by porters are totems of a materialistic metropolis in which consumers are flooded with a constant blitz of products.
Delorme says, “My totems are therefore highly symbolic: the migrant appears like a superhero at first, able to carry these loads. But very quickly, we have the feeling that the objects he is carrying are about to swallow him up—that he is overwhelmed, just like the consumer is.”
Images © Alain Delorme