Moments between isolation
By Bobby Yip
Those who have visited Hong Kong know how packed the buildings are, how busy the traffic is and how quickly people walk. When there was a global photo project on the world’s population reaching 7 billion, the first image that came to my mind was Mong Kok – one of the most crowded places in the world. The Guinness World Records lists Mong Kok as having a population density of 130,000 per square km or 340,000 per square mile.
Unlike the two high class shopping districts for tourists, Causeway Bay on the island side and Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon Peninsula, complete with world famous fashion brands, Mong Kok has a more authentic feel of the territory. Here you will find older residential buildings, smaller stores of all kinds with tags displaying cheaper prices. It’s packed with people on the pavements, crossing the streets and even sitting on the ground.
I tried to illustrate my feelings by showing many of those walking past, isolated; seeing what happened within a split second of this isolation.
One of the two approaches I used was with a slow shutter speed, holding the camera steady on my face or supported by concrete. In others I shot with a fast shutter speed, observing the subject but not through the viewfinder while clicking the shutter. In this case the camera settings, including focus, were pre-set.
I admire the Henri Cartier-Bresson approach of street photography in catching the decisive moment so a high-speed motor drive was not a must here. But the difference between Paris in 1930’s and Hong Kong in 2011 is that so many people are walking in front of you or blocking the view. Though I like the perspective of a standard lens like Cartier-Bresson, there was just no space for me to step back (too many people) and capturing a person’s full length with a standard lens is nearly impossible. So, I attached my full-frame camera with a super wide angle lens without a lens hood on it so I could move around as freely. The super-wide angle perspective also helped to depict the isolation.
There is a lot to be seen on the streets. It’s always nice to grab one or two nice snapshots in between routine assignments as “an exercise of eye judgment”, as that master of street photography on the 1930s Paris street once said.