Coronavirus Turns Shanghai Into A Ghost City


Coronavirus has recently spread over 28 territories across the globe, concentrating mainly in China. The statistics also doesn’t paint a good picture – out of 1018 supposed deaths caused by the virus 1016 happened in China. As sad and scary as it may sound, it’s hard to imagine what the people of China are going through, especially on the affected territories. Nicoco, a photographer and a visual storyteller, has documented what it’s like to be in the middle of the outbreak in Shanghai, one of the liveliest and busiest cities in the world. It has turned into a shadow of its former self, a ghost city filled with emptiness and fear…

One Person City is a series of photos that captures the atmosphere of isolation and the horror that took over the metropolis with more than 24 million people. Each photograph gives us a better understanding of what it feels like to be in the middle of that fear, depicting empty streets and roads that seem totally abandoned.

Nicoco had no idea how bad coronavirus was and found out about it with the rest of the world when the news of Wuhan’s quarantine became international. Just a few days later he went out to explore the big city, not knowing what awaits him. Where thousands of people used to fill the roads and streets before the outbreak, he saw only few janitors roaming around.

It was the time of the Chinese New Year celebration and the photographer was worried he’ll be swept away by the crowd. This is what happened back in 2014, but the reality was much, much more disturbing. Instead of festivities he found emptiness and the dreary feeling of isolation. People weren’t avoiding crowded places – they didn’t leave their homes at all!

He was baffled as people were literally nowhere to be seen. After days of travelling around the city by bike, metro, or on foot, he met mostly cashiers, security officers, and janitors. It was even more perplexing for Nicoco, who has lived in Shanghai for six years. He has seen the vibrant soul of the city with all its inhabitants from elders doing synchronized dancing to late-night runners, who felt totally safe going out in the evening.

The people of Shanghai were robbed of their happiest time of the year – all they got was fear of getting sick, of losing jobs, and of the future in general. It’s hard to imagine what the upcoming months would be like. It’s that fear of the unknown, the dread of what’s about to come that is keeping everyone away from the streets.

According to Nicoco the government prolonged the festive holidays and allowed some crucial businesses (like water facilities and grocery stores) to reopen. There was no fresh food in the markets as everything was cleared out by scared people. Around February 10th most businesses got back to work, but the majority of people remained self-quarantined, having to choose between the risk of getting sick or losing the job.

However, in some aspects the life still went on as usual. One day Nicoco was travelling the city and found a street with laundry hanging out from everywhere – every tree and pole was covered with it! Another time he saw a crowd standing in a queue to get some bubble milk tea, out of all things. Life goes on, despite all the fears and concerns. The city will get back to normal sooner or later!