Tag Archives: Suburban Landscape

Little Europe on the Outskirts of Shanghai

Spanish photographer Pablo Conejo traveled to China to document the rapid—and, he thought, almost unsustainable—development of a country full of contradictions, the result of Chinese culture confronting global trends. Before his trip, he made a list of opposite concepts to accompany him as an inspiration: east and west, poverty and wealth, communism and capitalism and tradition and modernity were all ideas that served as guides in the photographer’s anthropological excursion. In Shanghai, he saw yet another contradiction.

Conejo found himself immersed in a futuristic urban landscape, a skyline overloaded with concrete and glass above the smell and feel of the stereotypical China he expected to find, one that he describes as a “tangle of motorcycles, cars, people and noise; a mix of intense food smell from stalls and kitchens, car fumes and a murmur from all this bustle; all this jumble peppered with red lanterns and fortune cats.” Then, as he reached the borders of the city he found a peculiar urban project: a set of nine suburban neighborhoods under construction, mimicking the architectural styles of several iconic European countries, including France, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Holland and Germany. Built to house the wealthier Chinese population escaping the big-city lifestyle, “One City, Nine Towns” is a thematic urban project launched in 2004 with the goal of relieving overpopulation in Shanghai. These artificial towns, which are replicas of buildings found in the various European locales, are projected to house one million people by 2020.

“At the moment all the towns look like ghost cities,” Conejo says. “The empty streets make them look like Disney World or a cinema set. As a matter of fact, Thames Town, the English imitation, is becoming a very popular location to have one’s wedding photography made.” Despite their popularity among locals, Conejo realized that some people weren’t familiar with the original inspirations of these model homes. In the Paris neighborhood, the photographer asked three teenagers if they knew anything about the French capital. “Paris?” one asked. “I don’t know.”

Pablo Conejo, who was born in Madrid in 1981, ran two urban photography workshops in Instituto Europeo di Design in Barcelona in 2008 and 2009. You can see more of his work here.

Coming of Age in America: The Photography of Joseph Szabo

Joseph Szabo has photographed teenagers for the past four decades. His images perfectly capture the nuances and emotions of adolescence, and they document his subjects in moments of uncertainty, reflection, longing, bravado, exuberance and awkwardness as they dip a toe into the waters of adulthood.

As Cornell Capa wrote in the foreword of Szabo’s first book, Almost Grown, “Szabo’s camera is sharp, incisive, and young, matching his subjects. One can use many adjectives: revealing, tender, raucous, sexy, showy… in Szabo’s hands, the camera is magically there, the light is always available, the moment is perceived, seen, and caught.”

Over the last 40 years, Szabo has quietly built a reputation and cult following as the quintessential photographer of the teenager. While he has published books and had gallery shows, an exhibition at the Heckscher Museum, in Huntington, New York, that opens this month marks Szabo’s first major retrospective. Appropriately located on Long Island—where the majority of the work was made—the show draws from the photographer’s extensive archive and features images from his four books: Almost Grown, Teenage, Rolling Stones Fans and Jones Beach.  Work from his recently rediscovered suburban landscape series Hometown are also on display.

The setting for his first museum show is also significant because Szabo was a young art teacher at Malverne High School, in Long Island, in the early 1970s. He began photographing his disinterested and undisciplined teenage students as a way to connect with them, and Szabo found himself drawn to the kids, gaining a sense of what was happening in their lives. “It was always the emotional aspect I was looking for,” Szabo said in a recent documentary called The Joseph Szabo Project. “I wanted them to express who they are. There’s a beauty to that honesty, and I wanted to get below the surface to reflect their lives in a nonjudgmental way.” The resulting body of work, which starts in the classroom before branching out to the school grounds, parties and Jones Beach, is a celebration of teenage experience. Or as Szabo describes it: “The years of restless desire and blossoming sexuality. The world of high school, parking lots and street corners, and the uniquely American culture in which all of us have grown up.”

Szabo’s images are a candid document of coming of age in small towns and suburban America. “You try to capture life in the moment that speaks to you,” he says in the Joseph Szabo Project. “They are fleeting—one moment it’s there and then its gone.” His intimate and iconic images are picture-perfect proof of these fleeting moments—memories magically captured and frozen forever.

Coming of Age in America: The Photography of Joseph Szabo is on display at the Heckscher Museum of Art, Long Island, New York through March 25.

To see more of Joseph Szabo’s work on LightBox, click here.