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Space Jam – Hong Kong’s Chaotic Beauty

By Stasia Fong 28 August 2014
  Families of four living in 200 square foot apartments. Hundreds of people piling themselves like sardines into an MTR compartment. Having no land left to bury the dead. Looking out the window directly into someone else’s living room. Sound familiar?

Carsten Schael, Digiscopic #047

  In their recent works, two German photographers, Carsten Schael and Manuel Irritier, captured Hong Kong’s visual density in completely opposite styles. In a slightly trippy approach to documenting our city’s chaotic atmosphere, Carsten Schael’s Digiscopic brings a stunningly unique and accurate representation of the sensory overload one experiences when living in or visiting Hong Kong.

Carsten Schael, Digiscopic #059

  “Hong Kong's visual density is something that struck me on my first visit in 1989,” Schael. a Hong Kong resident for more than two decades, tells Localiiz. “In certain places there was too much visual information for me to process and see. I felt blinded.” In Digiscopic, Schael explores this feeling of visual bombardment by pushing the limit of photography as an art. Through the use of Photoshop to digitally reflect familiar Hong Kong sights including building facades and our skyline, he layers an image over itself multiple times, blending them together to form the final piece.

Carsten Schael, Digiscopic #038

  His personal favourite from the series is Digiscopic #038 (see above). “It describes the typical Hong Kong living situation, the small apartment with its window-type air con, the washing on the bamboo pole, the corrugated iron roof to cover it and the aluminum window bars,” Schael explains.

Manuel Irritier, Urban Barcode I

  For all that Schael throws at the viewer, his compatriot, Manuel Irritier, strips away, achieving a similar blindness, while focusing on one aspect of Hong Kong’s density. Taken in 2013 on his first visit to Hong Kong, his project Urban Barcode focuses on close up photographs of apartment buildings in the city. At first glance, his work conveys a sense of organised chaos – a near perfect description of a typical Hong Kong day. “The sheer endless mass of housing units stacked together and rising up to the sky drew me to Hong Kong’s cityscape,” Irritier says. “Housing units are stacked together cellularly and melt into an anonymous mass. However – on closer inspection – one can detect the difference as well as the individuality in detail and that life is pulsing in a confined space.”

Manuel Irritier, Urban Barcode VIII

  Although his work is quite similar to that of Michael Wolf’s Architecture of Density, Irritier explains that it was pure coincidence, and that he actually draws his inspiration from the work of German architectural photographer HG Esch. As personal space and urban development are being discussed from dim sum tables to LegCo, Schael and Irritier present them in such ways that you almost forget the underlying social struggles. Whilst Hong Kong’s density is part of the iconic landscape, these collections may be a warning to those embracing micro apartments as the new norm in Hong Kong.

Manuel Irritier, Urban Barcode V

  Have we overwhelmed your eyes with these visually chaotic images? Don’t forget that Hong Kong is also home to plentiful amounts of beautiful nature! Check out the naturescape photography of local Hong Kong photographer Jeffrey Poon for a bit of a visual break! What do you think of Hong Kong’s density? Share your views in the comments section below. Got anything cool you'd like Localiiz to share? Send us your stuff!

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Born in Singapore and raised in Hong Kong, Stasia Fong is a freelance writer with dreams of breaking into the television industry and executive produce her own television show.