Here’s how the That’s Shanghai @thatsshanghai Instagram account works: users hashtag their images #thatsshanghai and we pick out the best of them to regram, tagging the original photographer.
In the process, we found ourselves reposting some absolutely stunning photos of the city and beyond. And, the more we did it, the more we noticed we were regramming photos from – and tagging – the same accounts over and over again.
So we decided to reach out to these Instagrammers of Shanghai to learn a little bit more about them and their methods. And, of course, share their incredible work...
Italian Alessio @_alexi0s_ moved to Shanghai in 2014. An architect graduate, when he relocated to China he switched careers, and now works as art director for an event company, mostly for brands in the fashion and luxury fields.
How did you get into photography?
Everything started back in 2012, when Instagram launched. I started sharing some simple pictures taken with my phone. With time, this hobby turned into my biggest interest – from using my father’s compact camera to buying my own DSLRs and a drone.
As for inspiration, social media made me explore others’ work, which motivated me to new levels, through practice and constant learning; it made me want to explore the world, to travel, to take a lot of photos and start taking portraits, which I share on my second account @shotsbyalexi0s.
How do you choose where to shoot?
Each time is a different adventure and a new story to tell. Sometimes I walk without a destination; sometimes some friends know interesting spots and they invite me along. When I want some sought-after place, I use Chinese social media to get information.
What do you look for in a photograph?
Mostly composition, balance and colors. And if the photograph also has a story to tell... that’s the photos I like the most.
Which is your favorite place in Shanghai to shoot?
I don’t have one. Shanghai is such a vibrant city, where everything changes almost every day. After all my time living here, I can say there is still a lot to be discovered.
And outside of Shanghai?
My hometown back in Italy. See the picture below and you’ll understand why.
How is the Instagram community in Shanghai and China?
The Instagram community has faded off, it's not what it was a few years ago. Despite that, Instagram is still a way to find someone with common interests; I have found good friends and photographers to go out shooting with.
What advice would you give someone trying to build up an Instagram account?
There are no established rules. Choose what you want to do, set down your style and interact! Not because it’ll bring more likes or followers but because it’ll bring a chance to know people, to meet with them, to learn (or teach) and to be inspired (or inspire).
It’s not easy, but definitely possible.
Here Alessio introduces some of his favorite shots:
“It was November during the CIIE – China International Import Exposition – in Shanghai, and I`d heard about a light show happening on the Bund. One afternoon, I went to Zhapu Bridge. It was 5pm, and there were so many people with cameras and tripods. I think I waited there for an hour or more. After the first show I realized I was in the wrong place to take the picture I wanted to have, so I rushed to the main promenade on the Bund, set my camera and shot around 2,000 pictures.”
“I shot this a long time ago. After purchasing my drone, I did a bit of practice and then one day I decided to fly above the big intersection in Shanghai at night. I still remember how much my hands were shaking, and the moment when I lost the signal, but what impressed me more was what I was seeing through my screen. It felt like a movie scene.”
“One of my dreams was to take a photo above the clouds in Shanghai; I tried several times, waking up early in the morning to fly my drone. I don’t know if my tenacity got rewarded or if I just got lucky – I couldn't believe when, ascending my drone, I crossed that layer of clouds.”
“This one was taken the same day I got the low clouds shot. I joined a sunrise photowalk at the Bund and around 7am we went to Memorial Tower to take photos of the tai chi masters. Their movement and their synchronization were beautifully hypnotic and the iconic Shanghai landmarks in the background complete that moment.”
“This is one of my favorite shots I`ve taken with my drone. I think it was from three years ago; I went flying during the working day right before going to office. The light of that sunrise was just amazing.”
“I’ve been to Beijing so many time but just for work. A couple of years ago, after few days of work, I stayed a bit longer to explore the city. I’ve went to the Temple of Heaven on a work day when it was less busy and found a spot with the temple framed by the two giant doors. I waited for what felt like an hour for the moment when no tourists were standing between the Temple and my camera!”
“I shot Jing’an temple during one of my first drone sessions. One day, I decided to go back. I felt something was missing from my previous photos, so I tried to get a bigger frame of the city. I wanted to see, in one photo the different realities that Shanghai has in its urban pattern.”
“A place I use to go to quite often, especially during Chinese New Year, is Yu Garden. After all these years in Shanghai I still enjoy going to see the old buildings lit up at night with lots of lanterns.”
“This time at Yu Garden I saw this girl with a rabbit hat pointing to the lanterns: I had to capture that moment, feeling that she gave the moment life.”
“This is 云和梯田 in Zhejiang Province. I joined a photography group and we went to visit these rice terraces with a history of dating back more than one thousand years. I woke up really early to take the bus from Lishui City. When I got there, that view – especially when the sun was rising – was really breathtaking.”
“It is a bit hard getting up for sunrise on the weekend. One day my friend Andi @xxiamandixx (to check out his work, click here) asked me to join him for a sunrise drone session. There are always surprises when flying a drone; we get to see small details we would never be able to from a normal view.”
“This is an old shot of Nanpu Bridge. I remember the first time I went there, I thought that the intersection looked so awesome, so I added it to my list. When I got a drone I went back there more than once: daytime, sunset, evening. Among of all the shots I’ve taken there, this is my favorite.”
“Hong Kong, a few years ago. I woke up for a solo sunrise mission, got a cab and went up Victoria Peak. I saw some small clouds and I hoped to fly high enough to be above those. It happened… and it was incredible.”
“I had seen this shot on Instagram before, and I really wanted to capture it too. At sunset, I took off with my drone from a place nearby and flew to the SWFC building. It's so beautiful seeing the Oriental Pearl Tower through the hole of the Bottle Opener.”
“This is the World Expo Museum in Shanghai, designed by ECADI Architects. The inner facade of the building is made by copper plates. On sunny days, the geometries of the architecture, the color of the copper, the light through the glass, the reflections, the shadows... all the details make this building something extraordinary.”
“Before a visit to Zhangjiajie National Park, I read a lot of people online suggesting to pass by the ancient town of Fenghuang. It took me three hours by bus but the scenes I got there on that grey September day, with these kinds of landmarks, were really charming.”
“During my short stay in Fenghuang, wandering in the old town, I saw these ladies wearing traditional costumes, crafting small objects to sell. I had no idea they belong to the Miao, an ethnic minority of Hunan Province.”
“Here we are in Nanjing. I spent a weekend there and I was looking for some nice places to explore. I found this Usnisa Palace at Niushoushan, a newly-developed, Buddhist-themed cultural park. I didn’t know I was going to visit a temple located six floors underground. When I arrived at the Relic Hall, I think I left my jaw on the floor. It was magnificent; everything was marble, gold and crystal. I’ve never seen anything that overwhelming in terms of sculpture and materials.”
“Last time I was back in Italy, I went to Venice to visit my family. One day I woke up before the sunrise and waited patiently for the opening of the bell tower in Piazza San Marco. When I got upstairs, the sun just started to show up behind grey clouds. I stayed up there for at least one hour, admiring that sunrise.”
“This is Polignano a Mare, my hometown in the Southeast of Italy. I lived there for 30 years and everyday it is beautiful. Every time I go back home for a holiday, I still take a lot of pictures... as if I were a tourist!”
Follow Alessio on Instagram @_alexi0s_
Follow That’s Shanghai on Instagram @thatsshanghai
Hashtag your photos #thatsshanghai for a chance to be regrammed by us, and maybe even be featured in this series.
[All images courtesy of Alessio/@_alexi0s_]