Uncovered Signs in Shanghai
This book includes more than 170 previously unseen ‘ghost signs’ (with English transcription) that have been fortunately captured by photography over the past six to seven years through the cracks of the rapid urban regeneration in Shanghai. Produced by The Type and three local photographers who have been tracking the ghost signs throughout Shanghai — Colleague Dong, Jiayu Shi and Jianwen Shen—this volume is a model in documentary photography and the capturing of unique graphic culture.
The uncovered signs in Shanghai tell an extraordinary visual history. Over the past century, China’s language norms and writing patterns have undergone dramatic changes, and ghost signs become a microcosm of these changes: the rich, full-bodied signboards in traditional script often date back to the Republic or even late Qing Dynasty; the socialist slogans, in latinized pinyin or temporary extreme-simplified characters bear witness to the language and writing reforms after the founding of the People’s Republic; and the dedicated department stores with their former administrative division names and numbers are products of the planned economy in the 1950—60s.
The book is in a small A6 format, echoing the grass root efforts that made this visual preservation possible, the silence of the urban ruins in contrast to a grand narrative of city development. The translucent orange-red plastic sleeve, on the other hand, recalls the covers of dictionaries and colorful plastic notebooks common in the 1980s China.
The lettering on the cover and chapter headings comes from the local type designer Eonway Ying. The character forms were inspired by his collection of hand-painted art lettering from the last century on advertisements and packaging.
Edited by Mira Ying and Richor Wang
Designed by Yan Chen and Hengbin Yang (Atmosphere Design Office)
Published by The Type, 2020
Bilingual, in English and Chinese
Softcover with screen-printed PVC cover, full color, 4.1 × 5.8 inches