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Hong Kong: Exploring a Concrete Jungle

by Steve Roe - IG: @steveroe_

A concrete jungle with little room to breathe. Sprawls of high-rise buildings compete with one another for sun light as the ground below remains in shadow from these colossal giants. 

This is what makes Hong Kong one of the greats.

Looking up at the canopy of buildings overhead from the packed out street may give an overwhelming feeling of claustrophobia to some, but to me it was exciting. I was taking countless photos. I would say that my photography improved that weekend, I was relatively new to it still but it was making me think of unique perspectives and how to play with shadow and light. 

I was only there for two days, the first day I was working as a content creator for Seoul Community Radio at the ALTN8 Festival which was spread around the different clubs of Hong Kong Island. On the second day I met with my friend Lucia who had been living a stone’s throw away over the Chinese border in Dongguan.

Lucia was a great guide and took us straight to the world’s cheapest Michelin star restaurant: Tim Ho Wan located in Sham Shui Po, a dim sum restaurant in which people are rushed through their meals to ensure that the queue of people outside aren’t waiting for too long. This restaurant is a must-see.

After this we were taken around the busy hubs of Hong Kong’s neighbourhoods. You may have seen the movie Transformers: Age of Extinction. A follower of my Facebook photography page noticed that my image of the Yick Fat Building features in the movie. Mark Wahlberg takes part in a chase scene on top of the building and masterfully makes his way down jumping from apartment to apartment. 

Upon arriving at the Yick Fat Building I was instantly in awe at the scale of it. A huge wall of apartments as far up as I could see towered above me. But what’s special about this building is the density of different apartment windows. It’s incredible to think that each window is a separate apartment.

Going around to the other side of the apartments was where the building became more special. We went through an underpass towards a shadowy area up ahead. I could see children playing and some shops behind them. I presumed this was still inside the underpass but when I got to the end I realised that this was the ground floor of the enclosed area. Looking above I could see daylight yet it struggled to reach down to the floor below. 

The building enveloped around us up ahead, odd apartment windows jutted out randomly, washing hung in the wind, and the sounds of people’s TVs filled the air amidst the chatter of voices coming out of the windows. Neighbours chatted from opposite windows and the children below were running around and shouting up towards one another. Either side of me on the ground level were barbershops, repair shops, and butchers, their lights were beginning to fill the ground level as the day grew darker; there was an incredible feeling of community here. I have likened this building to a future dystopian neighbourhood, it’s the most incredible place. I looked up, leaned back, and started taking photos, lining up the apartment windows as best I could.

All of this area is in the north of the island in Quarry Bay, and there are many good market places and neighbourhoods that make for really good shots. The city centre point of Hong Kong is a must-see for evidence of the country’s vast wealth and how quickly new polished high rises are being built. The city has some wonderful architecture, and in the last few decades as Hong Kong became the world’s bank vast amounts of money has been poured in to the city, and when you arrive in the centre the imposing glassy exteriors reach to the heavens above you. Yet parts of old Hong Kong remains. This is where photography gets even more interesting, because now you are able to scale old worn exteriors juxtaposed to shiny sky scrapers. The older buildings stand resolute, and some have even been painted bright colours such as pink or yellow in an attempt to modernise them. Others remain a dark grey, worn and weathered, yet to me they boast of more character.

Towards the mainland you have Kowloon and Kowloon Bay, these again are good areas for photography and there seemed to be less tourists in this area. But the best part about this area was the photography stores. Equipment is so cheap in Hong Kong due to taxes and I picked myself up a Canon f1.8 50mm lens and saved myself £50 compared to the prices back home. The f1.8 is now my favourite lens and has been great for portraiture shots in particular. 

I definitely wasn’t able to spend long enough in Hong Kong, there’s so much to explore and I didn’t even get the chance to climb Victoria Peak for an incredible view over the city. So a second visit is most definitely on the cards.