One year after the first recorded cases of COVID-19, we are still in the eye of the storm. This forum comprises of initial attempts to process how we can understand an unfolding crisis that, like the virus itself, continues to mutate and transform.

Mapping the Shanghai Lockdown

Since MArch 2022

This First Looks entry presents a graphic collection of 100 stories from the city-wide lockdown period in Shanghai beginning in March of 2022.

00:00, June 1st, 2022, it was like the New Year’s Eve clock ringing for Shanghai. That night was even more lively than New Year’s Eve because fireworks that had been forbidden since the Spring Festival of 2016 did light up the skyline of Shanghai at the first midnight of June. People walked out on the streets, drove on the city’s Elevated Roads, and celebrated the long-missed freedom. 

During the past two months, Shanghai, one of the world’s largest, busiest, and most flourishing cities, turned on the “silent mode.” The spread of Omicron in Shanghai challenged the city’s operation and people’s life in an unexpected way. When Covid-19 spread in Wuhan in 2020, Wuhan was locked down for 76 days, from January 23rd to April 8th. It was a tough time and a heroic commitment to control the pandemic. Two years later, when similar situations happened to Shanghai, nothing was heroic anymore. 

The first step to understanding why this happened is to record and remember. This project, “Mapping Shanghai Lockdown,” collected 100 pieces of memories and stories from the lockdown period of Shanghai. It is not a summary nor a judgment. I hope it can serve as a glance into the foggy time.

When I was collecting those memories, I asked myself more than once: What is the point of remembering all of these when we actually can do nothing about it? 

“Helpless” was the word used most while I spoke with friends in Shanghai. “Hold on” was the only thing I could say to them. 

Is everyone in Shanghai living in deep water? Of course not. Most people are probably still living a relatively “normal” life that is a little bit more boring but with enough food and the privilege to stay at home with families. However, the fear that “it could be me” in all those ridiculous and tragic moments is most terrifying. 

On May 6, a new policy announced that if there were one positive case in a building, all the residents living in that building would be taken away to shelter hospitals for isolation. At the same time, the “Zero-COVID” policy was again emphasized. 

Announcements from residents' committees

On May 8, 

The story is still going on. 

If Shanghai Lockdown becomes a history to remember, I am glad at least some of the personal moments can also be recorded and be part of the history using this map. As living is better than dying, remembering is better than forgetting. After all, only by remembering can, we have the opportunity to choose what to forget later.

If you are interested in submitting an essay, video, work of photography, or other creative work to the First Looks series, please contact Bishnupriya Ghosh and Michael Berry at: [email protected] and [email protected]  

first looks

One year after the first recorded cases of COVID-19, we are still in the eye of the storm. This forum comprises of initial attempts to process how we can understand an unfolding crisis that, like the virus itself, continues to mutate and transform.