Photographer Captures Empty Streets of Shanghai as Coronavirus Fears Take Hold

Photographer Captures Empty Streets of Shanghai as Coronavirus Fears Take Hold

A Shanghai-based photographer has captured the unusually quiet streets of Shanghai during the mass fear caused by the global outbreak of coronavirus. She found that public spaces in the city of 24 million people that are usually bustling with people were eerily empty.

Nicoco is the photographer behind the series. She titled the collection of images 一个人城市 (“One Person City”), which she began in the days after Wuhan was quarantined. Her outing timed with when Chinese New Year holiday celebrations were due to begin, something she’d sworn to avoid after experiencing huge overcrowding back in 2014. Except when she ventured out this year, the streets were deserted.

The virus has robbed Chinese people from what should be the happiest time of year.

Nicoco used a Canon 7D Mark II and Canon 6D at 24mm to shoot the series, intentionally opting for wide shots so as to “capture the vast openness,” of the vacant streets.

My experience living in Shanghai during the coronavirus outbreak, and seemingly many others, is isolation. It is more than people avoiding areas they think will be crowded, it is people not leaving their homes entirely.

Check out more of Nicoco’s work at her website or on Instagram.

All images courtesy Nicoco, and used with permission.

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22 Comments

Mark Wyatt's picture

wow. Have been there a few times, and never saw it like that!

Ryszard Błogowski's picture

Have you been there during the Chinese New Year?

Deleted Account's picture

Is it normally THAT empty, though?

Ryszard Błogowski's picture

I heard it is, but I'm unable to verify it. That's why I asked this question.

Mark Wyatt's picture

No. Non Holiday items. Still crowded.

Deleted Account's picture

Really bizarre...

LA M's picture

"Photographer" contracts the virus...his legacy lives on in those last images.

Jeremy Strange's picture

Maybe you should go, Leigh.

LA M's picture

Right after you

Jeremy Strange's picture

But I’m not a “photographer”

Jozef Povazan's picture

Hundreds thousands of people die each year on a virus so common known Influenza ! Are you so afraid to die? If you stay afraid you will never leave a doorstep of your home... Just saying fear is not your friend, but helps those who wants to control us with it :) I wish soon recovery to those who got infected and can be cured, some will not be able to do so, sad but that is reality of this world, we all die one day! So going out in areas infected will not kill everyone who does so as you can see... :)

Deleted Account's picture

The "common" flu (obviously the flu is a bunch of different strains) hovers at around a.05% mortality rate. The coronavirus is currently hovering at around a 2% mortality rate.

So yeah... I'd be pretty afraid to catch this particular virus.

Patrick Hall's picture

Yeah and SARS had a mortality rate of like 9%. That's insane! But I agree, people saying this is nothing and Influenza kills thousands of people a year are simply wrong. Corona has a death rate of 2% vs .05% as you said. But SARS was way worse as of now and we all survived so there is a bit of fear mongering too.

Arthur Morgan's picture

Jozef, you are correct, but only within the state established by strict isolation set by most governments.
I shall not try to justify my opinions since this is a photography site, but there is a nauseating large body of information easily available on the Internet.
There are experienced epidemiologists who consider that if it were allowed to spread freely this virus could infect 80% of mankind.
Believable statistics show that the death rate could be anywhere between 1% and 37%, with the best figures showing a global death rate of about 2%, but could be up to 5%. Many people will not be able to get standard medical care for other conditions plus lack of farm workers, and shortages in other industries all leading famine, so there will be an addition death rate that could be as high as 1% to 2% of the population.
We do not yet know how bad this epidemic could become so we have to take as many precautions as reasonable, which means each of us has to take the responsibility of preventing transmission.
Don't panic, avoid people, wash your hands frequently.

Michael Kormos's picture

If I didn’t read the title I would have just assumed these were everyday photos of North Korea.

Kevin Harding's picture

I've lived here for 24 years and the roads are always near deserted during the Chinese New Year (CNY). In fact we usually look forward to it since it's so easy to drive around !
This year it is different and a lot of my friends (photographers) have shots very similar to the above - but often you do have to wait a while to get the 'empty streets' shots as there are people, bicycles and cars around, but very very few for a city of 25 million.

For the CNY I was in Wenzhou (not too far from Wuhan) and now also on lock-down, and a friend and I walked around and took a lot of photos of people letting off fireworks and otherwise enjoying the CNY. The vast majority with masks on.

I returned to Shanghai two weeks ago and the trains, which should have been full, were at around ⅓ capacity. Driving downtown a few days ago there were hundreds of cars on the roads - but that is very few for this city where a return trip to downtown (10 miles or 16 kms) usually takes me around 1.5 to 2 hours ... it took me 30 mins return this time. Delivery guys are now at the gate every day (my wife buys most things on line) that the extended 'holiday' is officially over. Supermarkets never closed (though banks remain closed) and around 1:20 shops were open downtown whereas locally it's only the supermarkets and chemists (drug stores).

So as we all know - photos can be a bit misleading ;) However I absolutely agree with the sentiment of generally feeling 'isolated'.

Ryszard Błogowski's picture

Thanks for the clarification. That's what I wanted to know!

m k's picture

and here are my impressions in beijing

https://flickr.com/photos/59754911@N06/albums/72157713048359448

Jeff Walsh's picture

These are superb shots.

David Stephen Kalonick's picture

I lived in Shanghai 06-09. These photos are chilling.

Barry Stewart's picture

Looks a bit like 28days later