Photographer Larry Hallegua calls his “Made in Chengdu” series as a “mix of whimsical and dark themes, glimpsing into the lives and culture of the rich, poor, old and young, in a city currently experiencing rapid change,” set in a country experiencing sudden reach of world power status, we witness the effects of its rapid economic advancement taking shape in engaging scenes of modern Chinese society. Thanks to the talent behind the lens of Hallegua, who spent a year teaching English in Chengdu, the capital city of the Sichuan province, he was able to perfectly capture slices of modern living in this Chinese city, while it wrestles back with its long culture and prevailing traditions. To know more about this fascinating series, we reached out to Hallegua for a brief interview.

© Larry Hallegua

© Larry Hallegua

© Larry Hallegua

© Larry Hallegua

Tell us the idea behind this fascinating series “Made in Chengdu”?

The series, titled, Made in Chengdu, is a collection of some of my candid shots taken over the last year whilst living and teaching English in Chengdu, China. The set is a mix of whimsical and dark themes, glimpsing into the lives and culture of the rich, poor, old and young, in a city currently experiencing rapid change. The capital of the Sichuan province is expected to be a pillar of economic growth in western China in the coming years, and whilst the tightly governed society still maintains a rich cultural identity, there is a bewildering shift to a more materialistic and capitalist ideology.

© Larry Hallegua

© Larry Hallegua

© Larry Hallegua

© Larry Hallegua

What fascinating discoveries you had about Chengdu’s modern society and how it relates with the overall Chinese society while doing the series?

Well, it’s first worth noting the astonishing and continuing rise in Chengdu ‘s commercial center and population. Everywhere I went there was ample evidence of China’s growing middle class. People have money to spend and time to play. Luxury cars are everywhere, as are high-end Western designer boutiques, from Gucci, Rolex, Omega, to Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, these stores are crowded with shoppers buying things. Friday afternoons, waiting at the gates to the private primary/high school where I taught, would be parents kitted out in the latest fashions, alongside their huge 4×4’s; having a large, foreign car is a big status symbol in China, in particular, the popular brand of choice is America’s Buick, and while the heyday of seeing a Buick on American roads is long gone, the brand is far from dead, business is booming — just not in the U.S! The common view of Buick’s in China is different from that in the States, the cars are the choice of business people and government officials, and Chinese executives are partial to minivans, which don’t come with the kid hauling image they have in the USA.

One funny interesting discovery I made was that in traditional China pets generally consisted of crickets and birds. Now, everyone wants a dog, and there are dogs all over the place. The Chinese not only like to walk them, but they like to congregate in public squares where they can socialize and let their dogs play together and many people like small dogs, especially the puffy poodle types. Having a dog for a pet is a sign of affluence in China.

© Larry Hallegua

© Larry Hallegua

© Larry Hallegua

© Larry Hallegua

Tell us the journeys that your street photography career has taken you?

Well, I actually started doing street photography in 2012, during a 7 month stay teaching English in Lima, Peru, and a year later I went to work in a university in Tokyo for three months, covering their spring semester. I’ve just moved to Bangkok, again to teach English – it’s my only viable way of funding my trips, I enjoy teaching a lot and have over 5 years experience, including teaching in London.

Living and working abroad can be good and bad, the good is obviously the change of scenery, new cultures and people to explore, different colors. London doesn’t have much variety of color in the buildings and backdrops compared to some of the places I’ve been abroad, but I definitely have more anonymity when shooting there, a problem that I’ve had to adapt to when shooting in China for example. Most of the time people would notice me immediately, way before they even see a camera, I became the subject, and their behavior would change as a result, making it quite hard to take shots from the front without them looking straight at me. Also Chengdu doesn’t have a huge inflow of foreigners, unlike Shanghai or Beijing, so people are still not used to seeing them walking around, especially where I was located, in Xipu, I would receive stares every day even from the same people, and would very rarely see other foreigners, even on the metro.

© Larry Hallegua

© Larry Hallegua

© Larry Hallegua

© Larry Hallegua

These images represent the modern Chinese society, tell us about instances wherein the old China manages to re-appear?

Well interestingly, the way of life for a lot of Chengdu people, especially those not living the high-end life of consumption, does not seem to have been affected too much by these high-speed modern changes. Tea-houses and hotpot restaurants, for example, still fill the city map, and the lifestyle is much the same: a colossal amount of people meet at tea-houses by the rivers to chat, play cards, smoke and drink tea for hours upon hours. On the streets, and inside apartment block complexes you will always find people playing mahjong, at any time of day and although most work all week, they manage to still live a relaxed way of life. Also, there is abundant evidence of the city’s efforts to preserve a sense of cultural identity amid bewildering change. Ancient districts that were knocked down have been lovingly recreated to house market stalls selling highly prized Sichuan delicacies. They are packed with locals, in stark contrast to the cavernous and empty modern malls on the outskirts of the city.

© Larry Hallegua

© Larry Hallegua

© Larry Hallegua

© Larry Hallegua

What camera(s) were used during the shoot of this series?

All of the images were shot with my Fuji x100s digital camera.

© Larry Hallegua

© Larry Hallegua

© Larry Hallegua

© Larry Hallegua

What are your next photography series plans?

I haven’t yet decided on what my next series will be focused on, but it will definitely be in my current location, Thailand. I’ve just recently been invited to join a new street photography collective here, “Loopers”, which is made up of Thai photographers, and hope to work on some local projects with them, as well as my own personal series.

© Larry Hallegua

© Larry Hallegua

© Larry Hallegua

© Larry Hallegua

© Larry Hallegua

© Larry Hallegua

© Larry Hallegua

© Larry Hallegua

© Larry Hallegua

© Larry Hallegua

© Larry Hallegua

© Larry Hallegua

© Larry Hallegua

© Larry Hallegua

© Larry Hallegua

© Larry Hallegua

Larry Hallegua is an experienced street photographer based in Bangkok and a member of the acclaimed international street photography collective called Observe, and another street photography enthusiasts group Loopers.

To see more of Larry Hallegua’s work, check out his Website. To be considered for Photographer of the Day, follow us on Instagram @resourcemag and e-mail submissions to markyramone@nomadicexperiences.com with the subject line “POTD Submission.”