For awhile now, I have always wanted to visit Hong Kong but the city I have in mind is a place rooted all the way back in the 1950s. I imagined smokey alleyways with deep shadows and sunlight piercing through to lit up the scene. This is what I wanted to experience on my first trip to the crown jewel of Asia after obsessively rummaging through the legendary and late Fan Ho's work. Don't get me wrong, I am fully aware that this city has vastly modernised and looks almost different from what it was half a century ago. But I believe that there are still some elements from the old Hong Kong which can be found in the new Hong Kong today. And all that I needed to do was just to open my eyes.
So with a curious eyes constantly peeking into the unfamiliar, what I saw was a very strong character and this city ... has plenty of that.
Yes, it is dirty. The air quality isn't the best. Maybe the urban build-up can be quite overwhelming for some. But I find that that is all part of it - the character of the city itself which you can tell by the way a place makes you feel. So it is not just about activating your senses but instead, how all of the smell, sight and sound, combined, makes you feel that truly captures the essence of Hong Kong. And for me, these are some of my personal favourite things about Hong Kong as a photographer: the gritty exteriors of most buildings, the millions of air condition units that dotted the urban landscape, the constant dripping water from those air condition units down to the pavements below, the widespread franchising of NIKE and ADIDAS shops everywhere you turn to, how ridiculous that they have just as many massage parlours as currency exchange shops, the use of bamboo scaffoldings (which makes a nice framing, tbh) and the extremely bright neon lights that are literally meant to be in-your-face.
But all of those things above are part of the modern Hong Kong. So when I looked closer, I found quiet moments that slingshot me back to the past - the old Hong Kong that still exists within the new Hong Kong. Especially in the early mornings. This sort of nice fusion between the old and the new turns the city into a photographer's dream playground. That is why for seven straight days, I spent every waking moment making photographs that matter to me. I walked over 100km in that same duration and only took a public transport when I had to cross the harbour (If I could walk over water, I would have walked that distance too). On a side note, I love walking that much. It's the best way for me to experience a place thoroughly. I see more and I feel more when I walk.
Anyway back to what I wanted to say, I also found my new favourite piece of photography advice during that time too - "DEVOUR YOUR CRAFT." It's so simple. Be obsessive with it. Over shoot. Over create. And don't stop. With that in mind, I just have to keep making pictures for as long as I had the time and the energy in me. But I was aware of not falling into the trap of creating the same kind of street photographs that we always see of Hong Kong - busy, cluttered and just lots of things happening in the frame. So I set out with a simple mission and that was to simplify everything. To do that, I decided to use the interesting way light behaves in the city to my advantage. Because of the condense urban build up, the sunlight shifts accordingly to the path that it takes. Instead of beating right down to the pavements directly, it has to either bounce off reflective windows or slice through the cracks in between two close buildings creating a surprising play of light in the middle of the day.
It was like being a kid in a massive real life playground; I just kept chasing after the light everywhere and soon it started to become my compass as I tucked the map away in my bag.
It was simply pure joy for me.
PS. The photos you see in this post are not part of the selected photographs that will go into my portfolio itself. So stay tuned for the next update!