"Totems" is a photo project by French photographer Alain Delorme. His photos show migrant workers in Shanghai: recyclers, street vendors, etc … men and women … carrying loads that are usually beyond human capacity to handle. However in some Chinese cities it is a common sight to have such creative and powerful people. In this series Delorme portrays the individuality of such workers as opposed to the usual images we see of Chinese streets, where the main focus is on the crowds. We can clearly sense the humor in addition to the hardships they go through to survive.
From an aesthetical point of view, I loved the combination of colors, the vertical forms probably indicating the lack of horizontal space and to showcase the exaggeration of the situation.
According to designboom, photography historian, Raphaële Bertho writes about Totems:
‘These workers carry throughout the city unbelievable piles. These precarious columns made of cardboard, chairs, bottles or tires appear as the new totems of a society in complete transformation, both a factory for the world and a new el dorado of the market economy.’
Photos are digitally retouched, as is clearly visible, but the starting point of Delorme is a true depiction of China. Some Chinese media didn’t report the name of the author, but his visual message and unusual views has hit the West.