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First Encounters

Photographer Justin Amoafo gets to know Shanghai without words.

First encounters

by JUSTIN AMOAFO

FEB 2016 // When Justin Amoafo moved to Shanghai, he knew no Chinese. But he did know how to use a camera, and that served as his entryway into his new city.

When I moved from New York City to Shanghai last August, I knew zero Chinese. Language was no longer something that could just flow; it became a barrier not just to interaction, but to making a new home. But I was determined to fight through the discomfort and isolation and, thankfully, I have another means of communication: my camera.

During my first few weeks in Shanghai, I walked the streets and talked to locals, not with words, but with my camera. I slowly got to know the city through the details. This small tool in my hands taught me what makes people smile, what makes them frown. It told me stories of their past and secrets of their present. In those early stages, my meager Chinese and camera were my lifelines.

Using my art as a literal means of communication can admittedly be a bit weird. But it allows me to get to know people in ways I'd never expected and helped me feel at home, 10,000 miles away. 


Justin Amoafo is a Ghanaian American photographer based in Shanghai. Check out his *portfolio* and *Instagram*.

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