Alexander Lockshyn has a huge catalogue of photos. He has travelled to a vast amount of cities but always with something on his mind: to capture the grittier side. Whether it's high tech, low life, or urban decay, Alexander is always on the look out for it. Here's the latest in our cyberpunk series, and this time from various cities.
First of all, let’s talk equipment, what do you use to shoot with?
I mostly use the Canon 6D camera with a Canon 24-70 f/2.8 and a Canon 70-200 f/2.8 lenses. However a month ago I bought a Panasonic GH5 with a Panasonic 12-35 f/2.8 lens specially for shooting videos... and it turned out that the GH5 is a pretty decent camera for stills as well, while being much lighter and compact than the 6D, so I took it with me for my last Asian trip instead of 6D and was quite happy with the result.
As you can see, I shoot a lot during night time, so I would be happy to switch my Canon gear for Sony Alpha, since it is the best in low-light situations.
What does cyberpunk mean to you and what stories does it conjure up for you? How do you transfer that meaning in to your photography?
Let me tell you a long story. When I was a child I was always fascinated by dark sci-fi movies and video games, e.g. ones showing technologically advanced futures with relatively poor chaotic societies, you know, Blade Runner, Escape from LA, The Crow and all sorts of 90s sci-fi b-movies. It just felt very natural to me. I had dreams about living in such gloomy futuristic megacities. Later, when I was 15 or so, I read Neuromancer and found out what cyberpunk is and realized I loved its aesthethics and other similar ones like gothic or film noir. You know, rainy streets highlighted by neon, car and traffic lights reflections on a wet road, lots of fog and smoke from street food, crowds of people on the streets under the pale cloudy sky.
In 2011 I visited Bangkok. There were some slums under a train overpass, I crawled through those slums and some chaotic street markets to my modern hotel, looked down on the city (full of skyscrapers and poor residential areas) from the 70th floor and finally realized, that the future from my childhood dreams came true.
Since then I'm looking for high tech and low life cities, travel there and trying to capture my feelings and atmosphere to share with like-minded souls in a form of stories, pictures, and videos.
So in general I'm trying to make you feel what I felt like while visiting those cyberpunk-ish places I always dreamed about: photos are just a creative tool for it.
You’ve travelled around some of Asia’s best cities for the cyberpunk style, which has been your favourite so far?
So far I can say that Chongqing in China is the purest cyberpunk place in the world. A city which feels like it has a thousand skyscrappers standing hand in hand with poor residential areas and hutongs. And it all stands on mountains, so you could walk 10 minutes up the hill through the the street market along the stairs and finally arrive to the street, one side of the street would be full of wandering roosters (that will become butchered for soup in a few hours), while the other side has 60-storey glass buildings of the financial district. It has tens to hundreds of buildings standing on foothills with apartments getting no sunlight ever. At night animations are shown on all the major skyscrapers and I swear it looks like holograms from the Automata movie. Locals don't speak any languages besides their dialect of Chinese, so you're almost guaranteed to feel alien there.
Probably the second best option is Wuhan, also in China, and the third one is Hong Kong, which is my favorite place in the world, however it is mostly middle-class and thus you have lot of high tech, but not much low life there nowadays.
What are your top 5 photos of this style and talk us through them:
It is very hard to pick just 5 photos, so I've tried to pick ones from different cities.
This one if from Beijing. There were armed guards freaking me out by pointing their guns on me, crowds of people with absolutely no smiles, lots of rain and fog, I was tired after a long 12 hour flight and felt like the place is a city from Blade Runner.
Guangzhou sunset. Probably the most modern city in China and a great example of what a "concrete jungle" is. If you look carefully, you can see how tiny an old 5-9 storey building looks compared to modern glass and concrete monsters.
Wuhan back alley. This is the city where luxurious shopping malls stand just nearby very poor neighbourhoods of old 5-storey buildings with narrow dark alleys, transformed into markets during the daytime. Lots of neon and LED lights as always. Feels CPAF when it rains.
Mong Kok district in Hong Kong. The most populated area on earth and one of my favorite places in Hong Kong: everything is tightly packed, but still comfortable, and you can definitely see where Mamoru Oshii took inspiration for Ghost in the Shell.
These are different views of one place - center of Chongqining. You see those building from the street, come closer and realize you're standing on the level of their 9th floor. Many apartments in those inhuman buildings have little to no sunlight ever. They are the most vertical housing estates I've ever seen. With bridges across buildings and some grocery shops situated right on living floors.
Do you have your next trip planned?
Technically it would be Vancouver and New York City soon (having a business trip there, but going to look for some cyberpunkish places in my free time). If we're talking about my next high tech low life tour, probably Japan and Latin America (especially Mexico City, Sao Paulo and Panama City) would be next.
Where can people find the rest of your work?
This year I've launched the "High tech, low life" blog on Medium dedicated to places where cyberpunk came true.
Also, there are sneak-peeks available on my Facebook.