For monograph Ad Infinitum, the photographer Kris Vervaeke captured small human likenesses etched in porcelain and affixed to hundreds of tombstones in Hong Kong. The dreamy book is potent for its simplicity; every page turn finds a blank white page fixed beside the a weathered portrait of an anonymous soul. Each capture magically veers from the photographic, entering a realm of abstraction evocative of fading memory. With every page, comes that same blankness, which functions to blur the portraits further, reminding the viewer that someday our own human faces will be washed away entirely.
The series works poignantly to make the reader forget—if only for an instant— that it is not composed of ordinary photographs of living, breathing people. Although the tombstones have been worn (in some cases more than others), the artist’s precise and intimate frame invites us to search for markers of human character; if we lose the eyes, we find glasses, and even amongst the faceless we discover hats. With each progressive photograph, the viewer clings to these signifiers of humanity, only to find him or herself frantically making meaning from the most impersonal cracked stone or chipped paint.
Ultimately, though, the images are not portraits but photographs of portraits, poignantly denying us any clear picture of who, when, or what these people were. A person dies. A body deteriorates. A portrait is chosen for a tombstone. A tombstone deteriorates. Someone takes a picture. With every progressive step, individual life fades bitterly into a mysterious realm just beyond our reach, Ad Infinitum. (via Lensculture and The Independent Photo Book)
For his series, “The Architecture of Density,” German photographer Michael Wolf captures the intense suffocating density of the city of Hong Kong. The framing of the buildings and apartment units creates a flattened, patterned image with details of individual residencies apparent only on closer inspection. The result is an abstraction that gives the appearance of infinity, as if these incredibly compact and dense structures never end. Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated metropolitan areas in the world, with an overall density of around 6,700 people per square kilometer, a fact you may recall from a previously featured photography series of the city’s cramped slums.
Wolf’s work is primarily concerned with urban landscapes and places, not always in such an objective, distanced manner. His series, Tokyo Compression, captures Tokyo subway users’ faces pressed up onto the glass of the subway car, a result of the overcrowding of this form of transportation. No matter the proximity to his subjects, Wolf offers a new perspective on the movement and energy of city life in his documentation of its density. (via curious history)
Hong Kong’s Society for Community Organization (SoCO) has created this birds-eye-view series of unbelievable pictures documenting some of the poorest living conditions in Hong Kong, one of the richest cities in the world. These cramped spaces, many no bigger than a small bathroom, serve as their inhabitants’ bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens, and pantries and represent the homes of a growing number of underprivileged Hong Kong inhabitants. One of the most densely populated areas of the world (426 sq mi and a population of seven million), Hong Kong’s high rent costs and public housing waiting lists force many people to live in these incredibly small spaces. These spaces are so cramped with stacks of living essentials that it takes an observant eye to capture everything represented in the photographs. These particular images were taken in the districts of Sham Shui Po, Yau Tsim Mong and Kowloon City, but is representative of the slums in the city’s 18 regions.
SoCO’s director, Ho Hei Wah, told MailOnline: “Hong Kong is regarded as one of the richest cities in the world. However, lurking beneath this prosperity is great inequality in wealth and a forgotten group of poor people. Hundreds of thousands still live in caged homes and wood-partitioned cubicles, while the unemployed, new-arrived families from China and children in poverty struggle for survival. SoCO’s underprivileged clients are increasing in numbers – while the city’s wealth continues to accumulate.”
Hong Kong has long been a center of international trade and manufacturing, but in the 1980s, it witnessed a shift from a manufacturing to a knowledge-based industry, which has become the driving force of economic disparity in the region. Since 1997, when China regained control of Hong Kong, it has operated under the principle of “One Country, Two Systems.” This has allowed the city to retain some independence from China, including the retention of a capitalist system that has been widening the gap between the rich and the poor. These photographs document the small-scale density of the lives of individual citizens and families in order to draw attention to the large-scale problem of population density and economic disparity. (via the daily mail)
What musings I have read by Peony Yip – aka The White Deer – express her true passion for drawing, something she has pursued, as she says, because it is the only thing she knows. The Hong Kong native of only 21 honestly asserts that she is no professional artist, instead describing herself as just a recent college graduate, broke, and looking to freelance a bit. Of course, the young woman can claim what she would like, but I think her talent is undeniable. Amateur or not, I have been loving her varied works. Take a look at some of her creations here, and maybe show this up-and-coming artist a bit of love after the jump.
Mei Yan Jane Lee is a 22-year-old Hong Kong-based illustrator. Her prodigious output encompasses comics, graphic design, product design, wall murals, and installation. Lee’s artwork is playful, detail-rich, and teeming with a heartfelt optimism. To get a better feel for the extent of her oeuvre, please visit her Tumblr. For now, here is a selection of Lee’s pattern designs:
Small Victories, the latest project by Booooooom, opens Thursday May 20th at Hong Kong’s Above Second gallery. This collaborative experiment came together by requesting 4×6 photographic prints from numerous participants, and aims to be “a photographic celebration of the quietly beautiful, unintentionally funny, people and things all around us. It is these little moments that make life worth living.” If you can’t make it to Hong Kong, Booooooom.com will be posting the submissions.
May 20th at Above Second gallery, 31 Eastern Street Hong Kong.