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City Life Through The Lens Of Michael Kistler

michael
Photographer Michael Kistler

Hong Kong is often described as a “photographer’s playground” with its striking contrasts, unstoppable energy, and unique characters, and no-one believes this more than top street photographer Michael Kistler.

Since he burst onto the scene last year, Kistler has blown us away with his perspective on our jewel of a city, and now he’s turning his lens to Tokyo. We catch up with him ahead of his new exhibition, in.visible city.

LOCALIIZ: What is the concept behind in.visible city?

KISTLER: As with a lot of my work, this collection of images deals a lot with the abstract nature of cities. I have always liked the human element in my photography to be less obvious as it merges with the larger urban environment. I suppose you could say that people are the supporting actors in a larger urban drama. There is an interesting urban grammar at work where past, present, and future become indistinct. While each city is unique, I think all cities have a lot of common characteristics. I have never been as interested in doing typical documentary-style street photography as I am with creating artistic imagery that allows people to make their own interpretations.

LOCALIIZ: Where does the name in.visible city come from?

KISTLER: The idea behind the name is two-fold. First of all, I choose to focus on a general urban feeling rather than a specific location, and secondly, I think there is so much beauty in what normally goes unseen in a given city. Essentially, urban landscapes create a kind of anonymity where people can become almost invisible. At the same time, amid the rush of big city, people fail to notice the many compelling details around them. I would hope that this collection of work expresses that kind of urban dynamic while still allowing the viewer a lot of freedom of interpretation.

LOCALIIZ: So how does shooting in Tokyo compare with Hong Kong?

KISTLER: Tokyo has a darker and more cinematic feel to it, but lacks the vibrancy of Hong Kong. I’ve only been in Hong Kong for a year and understand the city is always changing, but it seems to me that it has a good balance of new and old while maintaining the right balance between yesterday and tomorrow. Shooting in Hong Kong is a lot of fun and I think the city has a great energy to it. The city has so many striking contrasts, but at the same time feels down to earth and real to me. I like that you have the grit and grime alongside high-rise buildings and expensive brand shops.

LOCALIIZ: What makes Hong Kong such as desirable city to photograph?

KISTLER: Very simply, its energy. I love the vibe and mood of Hong Kong. There is such an interesting mix of movement, motion, and vibrant color; and when you add the diverse cast of characters and the array of unique architecture, the city really is a urban photographer’s playground. The great thing about doing photography in a place like Hong Kong is that it slows you down and forces to see things you might otherwise miss, whether those things are strange, quirky or beautiful. And in my experience, it is often a combination of the three!

LOCALIIZ: Why did you choose to shoot this collection in black and white?

KISTLER: Good question. Whether I present work in black and white or color depends largely on mood and feeling. Rather than location being important, it is more a matter of the images themselves and how they fit together as a series. I try to shoot in a way that doesn’t necessarily showcase a particular location, but rather conveys an underlying message or focuses on certain aspects or urban ephemera. That said, black and white is my first love when it comes to street photography because it has an understated quiet quality that using color does not.

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Check out in.visible city at Kong Art Space, G/F No.3 Staunton Street, Central from November 12 (11am to 3pm),  13 (12pm to 7pm), and 14 (12pm to 6pm).


Read more! Find out how Kistler teaches students to Tame the Urban Jungle, and explore our city’s iconic trams in photographs at the exhibit, Following Trams (04:06 – 01:07) and Two Depots.

 

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