Shanghai 1949 : the End of an Era
This is a record of Shanghai, once the commercial capital of the Far East, in the days of the Chinese revolution. Sam Tata was born in Shanghai, and returned there in 1949 at the same time as Henri Cartier-Bresson. He photographed these turbulent events and left the world what is “probably the most searching record in existence anywhere of the arrival of Maoist troops and political commissars in a great city…” (Hugh Hood).
The photographs show vividly the original Shanghai, a multi-racial city of swarming streets and alleys, recreated by Ballard and Spielberg in Empire of the Sun. They show an extraordinary blend of Chinese city life, the experiences of rich and poor, Europeans and Chinese intermingling yet worlds apart, the flight of refugees, the summary trials of the young Communists by the Nationalist authorities, prisoners being taken for execution, Mao posters being prepared for parade, the ‘Liberation’ celebrations from nuns to beggars to European expatriates to soldiers of the Kuomingtang, this is a unique document of history as it happens.
There is an Introduction by Ian McLachlan, in which the story of Shanghai is briefly told, accompanied by detailed recollections of these momentous events given to him by a number of Chinese and Europeans living in the city at the time: an ideal complement to Tata’s photographs.