As the world waits to hear news from China regarding the coronavirus, one visual artist took to the streets to see the effects for herself. Nicole Chan has been living in Shanghai for the past six years and, for the American photographer, this Chinese New Year was like no other. Instead of the streets being flooded with millions of revelers, Shanghai remained quiet. The government has advised people to stay indoors and most businesses and schools are closed, which has transformed a city of 24 million people into a ghost town.
一个人城市 One Person City is a series born in the context of a crisis, one that allowed Chan to get a unique perspective of the city, as she was one of the few who dared step outside. Though not officially under quarantine, Shanghai’s population was not taking any chances, which is why Chan often found herself alone. Outside of the few janitors or security guards who remained on duty—hospital masks firmly affixed to their faces—there wasn’t another human being in sight.
For Chan, it was a surreal experience given the typically active nature of the city and the crowds that fill popular sites like Yuyuan Garden, The Bund, and People’s Square. What replaced the normally vibrant atmosphere was a fearful silence and emptiness that seems to mirror the solitude felt by those waiting out the virus. “My experience living in Shanghai during the coronavirus outbreak, and seemingly many others, is isolation,” Chan tells. “It is a Where’s Waldo? of millions of people. While there are many faces to the pandemic, for most it seems it will have no face at all.”