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Untold Fortunes: Streets of Hong Kong

Posts in SKETCH

Untold Fortunes: Streets of Hong Kong

9 Oct 2016


One of the things you're told to do when visiting Hong Kong is to take the Mid-Levels escalator close by the Central MTR train station on Hong Kong Island. The escalator rises inexorably above dozens of narrow streets with impeccably British names, crossing over modern neon signs for restaurants serving companies of suited men and women, who ply their trade in the dozens of skyscrapers that have raised the skyline of the city by fifty stories.

This is Hong Kong in the sky, Hong Kong with a strata of high achievers breathing rarefied air. This is Hong Kong where purchasing a car park lot in an upscale condo costs 10 million Hong Kong dollars. But hey, you can buy a few and rent them out for life. Parking lot pimping, anyone?

But, there's another side to the city where fortunes are told, homeless infringe and the street incites a riot of colours. Hong Kong might be two systems-one country in its governance, but it's also very much two classes-one city in its way of life. 

The clouds sit above the skyscrapers on a clear day like the ships bobbing in Victoria Harbour. 

Our modern human condition: everything is a frame.

The city is aging even as it is cramping up under the weight of migrants from China and other places. To escape their tiny houses, the elderly hang out on the street. Some, though, have nowhere else to go. Nights are warm now, but for how long?

The melee of street signs is perhaps one of Hong Kong's most recognisable and enduring images. It reminds you of a crowd in all its shapes and sizes, jostling for attention, shouting out their names.

We are always driven by a need to see the future, to divine in lines and tarot cards who we should be, where we can find love, what fortunes await. 

The price of fish is never fixed at the wet market. 

Ferdinando Scianna says it best:
A photograph is not created by a photographer. What they do is just open a little window and capture it. The world then writes itself on the film. The act of the photographer is closer to reading than it is to writing. They are the readers of the world. 

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LED light and shadow meet on Apliu Street.

Fried tofu is the Asian nugget. 

Looking back from the ferry to Lamma Island, buildings loom out of an early morning fog. 

A constant stream of worshippers come to say their prayers and find fellowship in the oldest Sikh temple in Hong Kong. 

Hong Kong is a clash of worlds, different fortunes rising and falling down the same steep streets. 

Small details speak a city. The striking hues of a monk's robes set against the out-of-focus highlights of neon, a shop cat caught in mid-yawn. A smiling Mao Zedong poster for sale in a side-walk stall in Sham Shui Po, a towel tied around the bulging belly of a labourer waiting to cross the road.  

Till I ever hold you out there again
Will you be mine?
Cause I'm on a ghost ship drowning my heart
In Hong Kong
It's the last ride boarding here tonight
Out in the bay (out in the bay)
I'll need a lantern in you
To shine out bright rays

from Ghost Ship by Blur (The Magic Whip, 2015)