Alain Delorme Totems crates

Not quite sure if the U-Haul truck is up to the task? Wonder how much house you can really squeeze onto the limited square footage of a small urban lot? Consider these over-the-top solutions for piling more onto less.

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Alain Delorme Totems tires

French photographer Alain Delorme’s Totems series is a vivid and colorful documentary of bicycle-based object transportation … and perhaps a prototype for moving (or building) in a world without codes or regulations.

Alain Delorme Totems bike courier
Alain Delorme Totems bags

The images are a potential analogy for many things – ever-upward construction in dense cities like Shanghai, the relationship of individuals and masses in the world’s most populous country – and the basis for an endless stream of ‘Made in China’ references.

Regardless, the vibrant contexts and singular nature of the objects being carried (from gorgeous flowers and clear-blue water bottles to mundane packing boxes and used tires) make for an epic series regardless of deeper meaning.

“The new Totems series by Alain Delorme plunges us into the core of contemporary China and its complexity.  Under the blue sky of a highly colored Shanghai, men carry throughout the city unbelievable piles. These precarious columns made of cardboard or chairs appear as new totems of a society in complete transformation, both a factory for the world and a new El Dorado of the market economy.”

Alain Delorme Totems flowers

“Like Eugène Atget did in Paris at the turn of the century, Alain Delorme seems here to draw the portrait of the small workers in the Shanghai streets. While one is usually fascinated by the delusion of grandeur of Chinese society, Alain Delorme chooses to focus on the individuals running around the city. In terms of form, the author diverges from a documentary style and its affected neutrality, still adopting some frontality. The image is organized in horizontal strata, like in an archeological section. From the sidewalk to the building, the grounds are positioned at intervals and allow different urban temporalities to coexist: the everyday life, the ephemeral, the unceasing move of the passers-by, and the great transformations, building sites and new towers. Beyond the balance of these compositions, the author breaks the rules of the documentary genre, playing with the edit and the color to present us a type of ‘augmented reality,’ bringing into light the paradoxes of the most dynamic city of China.”