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Shanghai by Night
Text by Laurent HouPhotographs by Rob Smith


“I love SH”: a panoramic view of Pudong’s skyline.

Rob Smith is a British photographer who has been living in Shanghai since 1996. Although he works as a consultant, he dedicates as much time as he can to photography and has been tirelessly capturing the landscapes and people of Shanghai for years.

His landscape work is remarkable. In order to find the best views on the city, Smith developed several techniques that allow him to shoot through the windows of a building without getting a reflection; or to take great pictures without too much equipment. He likes to shoot from the roofs of Shanghai's five-star hotels which offer panoramic views but restrict the use of professional equipment (tripods are often not allowed). He gets the best views on the city, waits for the best light and shoots masterfully. So the pictures that come out are jaw-dropping.

Besides landscapes, he is also great at capturing people in the street. He manages candid shots that show us the genuine mood of the streets.

Smith is great at photographing different facets of Shanghai, including the atmosphere of the city at night. We, therefore, asked him to produce a series of photos on 'Shanghai by Night'. Although the pictures have different subjects and angles, their emotional power and beautiful colors create a consistent and unique mood. 

Asked how he managed to keep up his enthusiasm shooting Shanghai for so many years, he let it all out:

"Shanghai has so many photographic opportunities and so many things to capture. On the one hand, you have the structure of the city itself which is growing and developing at an amazing pace, the skyline is constantly changing and new buildings and structures seem to appear from nowhere. On the other hand, you have the millions of people who live in this amazing city, some trying to hold on to traditions and a lifestyle that seems not to fit well with all that is changing and at the same time trying to adapt to the new. You also have the 'new money' people who shop at the most expensive stores, wear designer clothes and drive around in hugely expensive cars. The contrast of the two lifestyles and how they manage to coexist give me a lot to think about. So the city’s skyline and structures stimulate my love of landscapes / cityscapes, and the people and cultures my photojournalistic/street photography; and, I drift between both depending how I feel. I never get tired of taking pictures in Shanghai. I only wish I could devote more time. Had I known Shanghai would change that much, I would have taken many more pictures when I arrived in 1996."


An evening at the restaurant. Street food.  Jazz: belting it out in a bar.

Golden rain, near the Yu Garden. Child counting money in front of the parents’ shop.  This shop closes very late at night.

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