Bad Boys

Shanghai | Bad Boys | © DM Barlow (2017)

Shanghai is overflowing with hard-luck stories. One hears them every day, sees them being acted out in bars, coffee shops, on dirty back streets and on modern thoroughfares all across the city. One sees boys and girls from the countryside, sleeping outside, fresh to the Garden which they believe to be Utopia – a place to make a fortune, find a husband or wife … and one sees the the bubblegum pink-lighted brothels where many of these young migrants will eventually be drawn, like moths. At first, such tales of woe seem interesting – then after a while they all sound the same. One becomes inured to the sadness: just another story, just another tale to tell, just another day – or night – in the Garden of Good and Evil.”


These two young men are from Sichuan and scrape a living on the streets; they live in a condemned 1920s mansion (the one next to mine, where I have a workshop); they share a room that has no glass in the enormous window frame above their beds. They remain cheerful, hopeful and offer to help find materials for my pictures. They are not “bad boys”, I took the title from the song by Wham! Their hairstyles and smiles remind me of a young Andrew Ridgeley and George Michael in the early 1980s. I took this portrait with a Canon 5D2 and 90mm tilt-shift lens, employing both the tilt and shift to full effect. The only processing – Curves to remove a colour cast, and a once-over with noise reduction.

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