These Photos Transform Shanghai Into A Real-Life Gothic City

Architect and photographer Amey Kandalgaonkar’s series, ‘Dark Deco,’ transforms China’s emerging financial hub into a real-life Gotham City.


“The architecture in Shanghai is very similar to the architecture in New York: it’s chaotic, and you see a mix of a lot of different styles,” says photographer Amey Kandalgaonkar, who moved to Shanghai from Mumbai in 2014. “It’s fascinating to see how the older architecture coexists with modern architecture.”


In his series, Dark Deco, Kandalgaonkar turns his lens on the city’s Art Deco architecture, transforming the hulking buildings into something out of a film noir. He uses a Nikon full frame camera and neutral density filters, which allow him to take long exposure shots. All of the images in the series are shot in the daytime to capture the effect of the movement of the clouds against the buildings.

Shanghai Skyline

Many have compared Shanghai–which is in the midst of a development boom–to Batman’s Gotham City, and Kandalgaonkar says he was struck with the same thought after recently watching the 1992 animated Batman series. In post-production, he began making his images black and white and high contrast to give them a darker feel.

Gotham likeness aside, the photos are also an excellent way to explore some of Shanghai’s most extraordinary architecture. With the keen eye of an architect, Kandalgaonkar chose as his subjects most interesting buildings he came across during his walks throughout the city. The 1933 Shanghai Slaughterhouse, for example, is a massive concrete maze that is now used for office spaces. In a neighborhood nearby, Kandalgaonkar found the Pigeon House, a creepy Hitchcockian residence that remains one of the last vestiges of Shanghai’s older architecture in its rapidly developing neighborhoods. There’s also the New Hengshan Cinema, the last Art Deco building constructed in Shanghai two years after the Communist Party came into power. In Kandalgaonkar’s image, it glows eerily in against the darkened sky.

See the full Dark Deco series in the slide show above.

All Photos: Amey Kandalgaonkar

About the author

Meg Miller is an associate editor at Co.Design covering art, technology, and design.