Shades of Gray

Among the photographs in James Whitlow Delano's book Empire: Impressions from China, is an image of plainly dressed Chinese on Shanghai's Bund gazing across the river at the buildings in Pudong. We can't see the people's faces, but their posture suggests they have been standing there a long time, contemplating the sight of Shanghai's biggest tourist attraction, a shiny visual shorthand for national ambitions: height, wealth, modernity, progress. Yet in Delano's picture, the towers appear faint and far away. They don't scrape the sky so much as leach into it. Maybe they're about to come into focus, maybe they'll fade out...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!