Hong Kong Visit and Producing Themed Collections

I’ve been going through pics from a trip to Hong Kong and trying to find themes so that it’s not just a collection of random snaps. The first one I’ve tried is Hong Kong buildings. Be happy for any feedback on whether this works, or on the individual pics themselves. I’ll upload five pics here but there are 24 in all in the iCloud link below.

I kinda took some inspiration from the late Michael Wolf:


Yes, I like your collection. For some reason, especially the pic with all the air conditioners.


I also think it works and organizing and thinking about your travel photography this way could have some interesting outcomes!

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Yeah, couldn’t see why they needed so many

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Agreed, there’s a strange pattern to them, it feels oddly tidy too.

Those high rise apartments look quite “scary” for multiple reasons. Although they solve a lot of problems and having housing is always better than not.

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FWIW, these are the other two collections I made. Loosely, Island life and Hong Kong street.

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I am from Hong Kong originally and have visited only once in 1995. A lot has changed since then but a lot has stayed the same. The AC is turned up super high indoors, which causes the outdoors to be more sweltering than it already is. Then add the heat island effect… :hot_face:


Ha. Yes, having to carry a sweater with you when it’s 30C+ outside. (I think it might have improved a bit these days with climate awareness).

I like the one with the car on the roof and also the AC one !

Are you using local contract and/or sharpening ? In my taste I think the first one lacks a bit of depth or global contrast or there is something with the textures that strikes my eyes but I can pinpoint what might be the cause.

Overall, the themes are strong and the framing is mostly there.

When pixel peeping, I see splotchy grain, some blur and reverse gradients. Some colours are saturated; whether intentional or not, colour shifts may be happening and detail lost. So, the stability, focus or calibration of the camera and the quality of post-processing could be improved.

Other than that, thanks for sharing. Most people are not comfortable with posting in the critique category.

I used various diffuse and sharpen presets and sometimes contrast equalizer but I’m pretty hamfisted with them and could do with learning how to use the stuff properly.

Thanks. That’s really useful. It’s good to get decent feedback as people are often too nice. I struggle to prevent some colours oversaturating, particularly reds, without losing a lot of colour altogether. I’m not sure what reverse gradients are (and the google results I get are quite technical). I think I need to be more careful in my edits, rather than just going for something punchy. Thanks again

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Also I realise now it makes sense to just post a couple of pics in this section as then it’s easier to be specific on where the problems lie on a particular photo. Cheers

My comment is mostly about the buildings’ collection.
Looking at the pictures - there is a very strong feeling of being overwhelmed with heaviness. It is mainly caused by the state of the buildings and the extreme density. This aligns well with the WSJ interview.

I am not entirely sure of the goal of the collection (and when asking for feedback - I can only express it from my personal point of view).

If the goal is to focus on the heaviness and the extreme weight of the buildings upon people - the collection hits right on. The effect on the viewer is profound.

On the other hand - the buildings in Hong Kong are not only that. They do have modern buildings.
In my view - it maybe interesting to contrast the modern part (like Kowloon or Central area) to the high density buildings.

The two would be to some extent of an opposing view and to a point complimenting one another.

But again - this is only my opinion.
Also - I would be quite interested to see your final work. Certainly, there are themes that one can focus on and reveal in collections of pictures.


I didn’t have a strong idea of what I was going to photograph at first, other than some street. I was staying in the less glitzy but somewhat gentrifying Western District of Hong Kong island that still has plenty of traditional street activity. I also travelled around to less touristed areas as I discovered there was a photography festival on, with exhibition spaces in relatively out of the way places, often in industrial and commercial buildings. I had been taking pictures of some buildings already but then came across a book in an English language bookshop of photos by Michael Wolf (it’s in one of the videos).

I found this work pretty inspirational. He’s most famous for the, like you say, oppressive pics of high density residential buildings, though in fact what I prefer are his pics of informal use of the city by its residents and workers, particularly in the alleyways between buildings. This seems to me to express the resourcefulness of Hong Kong people, or maybe just people, in the face of very tight living conditions, and fairly high levels of inequality. Also, perhaps a kind of laissez-faire attitude to planning and regulation that the current Hong Kong government is trying to eradicate and that has already been largely wiped out in Beijing.

I think these kinds of plain concrete or rough buildings are more representative of where Hong Kong people actually live. The famous shiny skyline is mainly financial, hotel and office space. I don’t particularly find the buildings oppressive. I lived in Hong Kong for a while back in the 90s and stayed in some such old and tiny apartments (though I was still in a very privileged position). There’s quite a lot of public housing in Hong Kong and I think there’s a community feeling despite or because of the density that I hope some of the pictures hint at.

Journalist friends still living in Hong Kong range from relatively sanguine to very negative over what I’ll euphemistically call the changes going on in the city. (FWIW, my view on what’s happening politically there and in China is awful. What they have done to Jimmy Lai, for instance.) I don’t mean to get political but it would remiss to ignore the reality there.

Back to my ramblings about photography, I’ve been trying to think what I should do beyond just trying to take pretty pictures. Looking for a theme (after the fact) in my random snaps was my attempt to think that through.

If you made it this far, thanks!


Firstly @TonyBarrett it’s great to see someone sharing and discussing a series of images!

In general I’m wary against making selections that adhere very strictly to a theme. This is because there can be non obvious rhyming or associations that are lost. Those “hidden” connections are more meaningful than straight similarity or topic. Saying that as a Bechers fan is odd I admit. In your case though I think the Wolf like tight crop cityscapes don’t fit that well and are weaker than your other images.

Most of your photos situate the photographer and you feel that the photos are taken by a human. Even the oblique facade crops like 9 and 17 are like that but images like 14,15 are taken by a body less ghost (crop, focal length etc.). No 2 is the exception as somehow the framing rhymes with some of your other from the ground shots.

If you have a ghost style vista/overview image of a part of the city it may work well as a start or end image but interleaved I think they weaken the whole.

My suggestion is to ditch 1, 5, 14,15, 23 and maybe 10 not because they are worse photographs but because a selection base on the rest will be better. Perhaps you have other images that now fit into this way of seeing things?

Of course these are just my reflections with a brain on fever and shouldn’t be taken to seriously!

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Again, this is really useful. I’ll look through the pics you suggested and see what I think. I agree with you on the unexpected or non-thematic juxtapositions. It’s a different context, but my favourite photo gallery (unfortunately due to close permanently this year) is the huge Pier 24 in San Francisco. The curators have drawn on a large and fairly broad collection held by its foundation as well as other sources to create incredible exhibitions in which the pictures speak to each other in contrasting and enlightening ways. It really helps to draw out ideas, meaning and significance from a photo when you view it in a space with, particularly, other photographers’ work and can go back and forth between them. (Aside, Pier 24 is selling off its exhibition catalogues at half price. I’d recommend This Land and Looking Back, both of which were fantastic exhibits). If anyone can make it to Pier 24 before it closes, you have to book a time slot online before you go, jfyi. Means it’s never crowded. It’s free entry

I’ve been going on in these forums about how photography is best when serial. Your comment explains it well with the caveat that I think it’s more important within a single body of work. A curators job is to set things up to work as you describe but then it (I’m being controversial here) becomes the curators exhibition rather than the artists.

When you set up an exhibition or book the whole will become more important than the parts.

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Reasonable point. I tend to think that different artist’s work can inform each other in the sense that one is showing what the other is not. And that becomes more obvious when that presence vs absence or difference is there in front of you