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Documenting Hong Kong, Vol. 1

I recently shot a roll of Ilford's much loved and esteemed HP5 Plus film on my Zenza Bronica medium format camera. Experimenting with black and white photography in recent months has been a fascinating and highly enjoyable experience, and a much-needed change for someone who has primarily relied on digital cameras and colour film.

The most obvious thing to me is black and white's transformative abilities. Coupled with the innate vintage look and feel of film, shooting in black and white immediately casts one back to days gone by. Such photographs, particularly of Hong Kong's less glamorous edges, are appealing to me as a historian and avid follower of historical photographs of Hong Kong. My process doesn't aim to recreate scenes of old Hong Kong, nor does it seek to render the city in an artificially old-fashioned way. Rather, I aim to document streets and scenes as they are: sometimes gritty, sometimes beautiful. This is the Hong Kong that is likely to change as the city continues to prioritise urban redevelopment, renewal and modernisation at the expense of heritage and culture.

A closed shop front, next to a very old stairway in Sheung Wan
A dried food stall in Sheung Wan

I've also taken control of the entire developing and scanning process from start to finish. Ars-Imago's LAB-BOX, a relatively efficient way of developing film, allows me to process my rolls without the need for a dark room. Adapting a vintage macro lens from the 1970s to my digital camera allows me to scan these negatives with remarkable clarity and resolution.


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