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Eric Leleu

Freelancer | Shanghai

Day Dreamers

Every day all over China, shopkeepers, managers, factory workers or waitresses all take several minutes out of their day for a sleep, either in their work space or in the street in broad daylight. People can be found having a snooze balancing on bicycles, at a workbench, on a restaurant table, at the base of an historical monument, or on an improvised seat, in plain view of passers by. 

For a period of several years Eric Leleu photographed these very sleepers all across the country. For him this practice is a sociological phenomenon that reveals a little known face of contemporary China. The sleepers are a testimony to a China where workers wake up early, go to bed late and recuperate with short naps during the day, showing a respect for biological rhythms, and an awareness of the body and its needs.

Escaping from the present, without fear of being seen. Beyond, the 'Day Dreamers' illustrate the complex link in China between private and public spheres. Private life overflowing onto the sidewalk. Privacy integrating with the wider community.

Elsa Fayner, Journalist, July 2008


"There is a vulnerability to these people napping – a particularly private activity undertaken in public – and a refreshing unselfconsciousness: they don’t care who sees them. "

Hannah Booth, The Guardian, 2013