City of Ambition is a visit to one of the largest and fastest-growing cities in the world, Chongqing, China. The vast cityscapes and sheer dimensions of the city are almost surreal for me. Chongqing was granted municipal status in 1997, rather late compared to Shanghai. But the people of Chongqing are very eager to show the world, and their sister cities in China, how powerful they are. With the booming economy, this has lead to an explosion in city development. Today the municipality is populated by approximately 32 million people.

What is taking place there, in some ways, resembles the bustle and boom of Manhattan in the twenties. Stieglitz’ phrase, “City of Ambition”, which he used to describe the Manhattan of those days, describes the current situation in Chongqing quite well. The people of Chongqing are on their way to building a megalopolis.

I am mainly interested in the outskirts of Chongqing, where the city can’t be really seen but sensed, like a tiger moving through the jungle – invisible, yet there. Construction sites and places of change represent metaphorical facets of the huge shift taking place in contemporary China. The landscape formed by the two large rivers merging in the city will completely change when the water level reaches its maximum as part of the reservoir formed by the Three Gorges Dam. What dramatic effects this will cause to the city of Chongqing can only be guessed today.

The fog dominating these pictures is real. In China, the city of Chongqing is nicknamed the City of Fog, and it reflects the big mystery that China still holds for me. After 23 visits it seems like the more I learn the less I know. Often it feels like I am moving through surreal scenery on a movie set.

This body of work definitely has a strong documentary component. However, the ability to express emotions through my imagery is equally important to me. I believe that the combination of the two is vital for a strong and lasting impression.

Being aware of the many problems in China, I do not think it is appropriate for me to point my finger at these issues. I am not interested in depicting clichés like overpopulation or tourist spots. These kinds of images have been exploited by many others already.

The immense size of the city, cold, heat, humidity, fog, dust and traffic turned this project into an adventure. Using a 4 x 5 view camera forced me to work slowly. Travel logistics required me to limit my equipment. I worked with color negative film and restricted myself to one exposure per image. The whole body of work consists of 380 images.

—Ferit Kuyas


Chongqing: City of Ambition

by Ferit Kuyas
Texts by Diana Edkins &
Bill Kouwenhoven
112 pages, 65 photos in full color
Hardbound with dust jacket, 30cm x 24cm
Schilt Publishing
ISBN: 978-9053306826
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