An Elephant Through a Microscope 1

Five years ago, when I was living in Shanghai, China, I started photographing and interviewing my neighbors. I called the project “An Elephant Through a Microscope” because I was trying to learn more about the giant city of Shanghai by meeting individual citizens.

I just found my old notebooks with the transcripts of the interviews:

Li (1)Li (2)

I used to live with my Grandfather. He died when I was 30. I miss him still. He cared for me when I was growing up.



Chinese Zodiac:



Jianbing (煎饼) maker [Chinese Pancakes]



When did you come to Shanghai?

I came to Shanghai in 1996. I used to be a soy milk maker but it was too tiring. You had to prepare all afternoon. Then I sold medicine, local medicine, and I was in the fruit business for a few years.

Where do you live now?

I live on Qinglin Lu. It is ten minutes from here [the workplace]. I live with my wife and daughter. We all came together from Shandong.

What do you do for fun?

I have no time to do anything. I go to bed at 8 at wake up early to get to work by 4:30. My wife also makes jianbing, on Baoan Lu, but mine are better [laughs].

I was the first jianbing seller in Shanghai, maybe. I have been making them here since 2000. I was the most well known seller in Shandong, they are very popular there. The trick is you have to control the amount of heat.

What is your hope for the future?

[At first, he didn’t want to answer this question. He just shook his head and looked at his hands in his lap.]

That things will be better. Much better.

I think we are the same as western countries. The quality of life is not worse here than it is there.

I used to live with my Grandfather. He died when I was 30. I miss him still. He cared for me when I was growing up.

What is your biggest wish?

That my son will study at university. In Chengdu. Get a good job. I have two kids. A boy and a girl.

What is your greatest fear?

No fear. I am bold. [He smiles big]

Do you have any questions for me?

I just wanted to answer your questions. You come to me for jianbing often and I wanted to hear what you wanted to know.

Maybe I’ll send my son to America someday. Maybe my daughter, too.



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