Shanghai. In this guest post, he shares his thoughts on city life and the impact it can have on one's mental health. These photos, part of his Sh/Dark series, all come paired with a recommended soundtrack (photography and music are the artistic equivalent of wine and cheese), courtesy of local Chinese musicians. In the coming days and weeks, we'll be showcasing more of Nikhil's work, so if you like what you see, and hear, check back for more. Visit his website, Chromogenik, to see more of his other work. Read on after the jump.>>>>
In January 2012, for the first time in its history, China's urban population exceeded its rural population: 690.79 million people were now living in urban areas, compared with 656.56 million in the countryside. In other words, the number of people in China's cities is now just over half of the entire population of India and more than double the entire population of the USA.
The flip-side of the life of opportunity and endless choice offered by cities can be a sense of dislocation, disconnectedness and the toll cities take on our mental health. Periodically, news stories emerge that indicate the lack of mental and psychological assistance available, a lack of standards and insufficient numbers of trained psychiatrists (more here).
A recent study from Germany suggested that "an urban upbringing and city living have dissociable impacts on social evaluative stress processing in humans." Key findings of the study focused on the level of the activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for processing emotional responses. Those from urban backgrounds had higher amygdala activity, but a lower level of interaction between the amygdala and the cingulate cortex, the section of the brain that generates an emotional response to a physical sensation of pain. This same kind of low level interaction between the amygdala and the cingulate cortex is found in people suffering from psychiatric disorders.
These images were not taken with the intent to comment on a concern over an impending mental health problem, urbanization or migration. Instead, they represent my own migration to Shanghai and my own sense of dislocation; they are an attempt to inject a darkness—even in a city with this many lights and constant movement. I don't think as a collection they are entirely successful, but will form part of a bigger project exploring similar themes.
Each one is accompanied by a link to piece of music made by a Chinese artist. Some links require a VPN in China.