I have been living and working in Hong Kong for nearly 6 years, prior to that I have lived and worked in Vietnam. I am originally from the UK. As a Head Teacher in an International School (Kellett, The British International School in Hong Kong) I am privileged to work in a role where I observe amazing and profound learning experiences every day. The students and teachers are always an inspiration to me.
Photography provides me with balance, serenity and an opportunity to silently observe and reflect. It takes me to places where I wouldn't normally plan to visit but end up finding, these can be either on my own doorstep or further afield globally. The camera provides me with a multitude of framed windows which I look through, examine and try to harness. I really enjoy urban landscape photography and tend to use medium format panoramic cameras (Fuji GX617 and Noblex 150U). They are fussy cameras to work with; bulky, heavy and cumbersome but I love them.
28th January 2020 found me, with my family in tow, travelling back to Hong Kong from Vietnam after an enjoyable Chinese New Year (Tet in Vietnam). We were heading towards Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat International airport when I received a text message from my airline. It stated simply ‘flight cancelled’, a short 6 hours before we were due to depart. Although a delay like this is not uncommon in Vietnam, the lack of explanation was slightly unusual and perhaps, looking back, slightly unnerving. It was only later I discovered that concerns about a potentially deadly virus had temporarily suspended air traffic and closed borders. Whilst we managed to get a flight back to Hong Kong less than 24 hours later, I had no idea what was unfolding across the globe and now, nearly a year on, I look back incredulously at the thought that had crossed my mind at the time – “this will just be a couple of weeks at most…”
Hong Kong has mercifully maintained a very low count of COVID-19 cases and deaths compared to the rest of the world. Much was learnt in containing the spread of a virus through the nation’s experience of SARs in 2003. These hard-won lessons mean that Hong Kongers generally tend to comply with the regulations and restrictions set by their government. Hong Kong’s success in mitigation is largely down to its people’s willingness and determination to manage their day-to-day lives by responding to the rules of engagement; an admirable combination of strong self-regulation, self-discipline and understanding of civic responsibilities. Masks were adopted at a very early stage by the entire population and the general sanitation and cleaning habits in the SAR contributed to the situation being well contained. Despite the ongoing pandemic, this compact, highly populated city of over seven million inhabitants, runs and flows smoothly.
In stark contrast to the stresses and fear within a pandemic are the silver linings one finds within these situations. With international travel practically impossible, I have found myself grounded and with that has come a new found familiarity with Hong Kong’s landscapes, both urban and rural. The city has so much to offer the pedestrian; bustling indoor and outdoor markets, an endless array of eateries and breath-taking vistas on the summits of its rugged peaks. It is full of treats and surprises and, for those who take the time, their curiosity is amply rewarded!
From behind my camera, roaming the streets of Hong Kong, I witness a multitude of micro-scenes, multi layered interactions and diverse and contrasting environments. When pieced together they create an incredible and irresistible typography of life; through the juxtaposed frames of photos I have tried to stitch together a section of the beehive of Hong Kong’s humanity at work and play.
Through my photography I wanted to capture the resilience of Hong Kong during this pandemic. This country has experienced many challenges over its long and varied history. Its people have an indomitable spirit like no other. No matter what has been thrown at them; from opium wars, typhoons, SARs, political unrest and now a long-term pandemic, the people go about their business with resolve, determination and a healthy dose of stoicism. Not much seems to phase the working person on the street (something not incumbent with all its inhabitants). COVID-19 is part of the struggle, the challenge, the inconvenience when all you are trying to do is to keep your head just above the water line.
I have captured these Hong Kong moments using a range of cameras, both analogue and digital. They are mainly taken with a Fujifilm XT2 but I have also used a Noblex 150 (lone person in from of three shuttered shops), Yashica 635 TLR (wedding couple) and a couple of the shots are from the Hipstamatic app on my iPhone
In my photos I hope you see the tenacity, normality and exuberance of daily life and observe the sheer resolve of its people to continue despite the odds. Mask or no mask Hong Kong moves forward driven by its people.
Other blogs in this series: