Jimmi Ho Wing-ka, a 23-year-old student majoring in Cinematic Design and Photographic Digital Art at the Open University of Hong Kong, is a person who feels quite sentimental about the past.
That’s why he captured last year the famous picture of a grim-looking Chinese university dormitory building with clothes hanging outside the rooms.
The densely-packed dormitory, which was at the South China Normal University in Guangzhou, reminded him of a resettlement estate of old Hong Kong, Ho says.
The picture, titled Silenced, was so well-received that it won the second place in the city categories in the 2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year contest.
In March this year, Ho bagged first prize in the Hong Kong section of the 2016 Sony World Photography Awards with his work “Childhood”. That picture was taken at Choi Hung Estate, one of the oldest public housing estates in Hong Kong.
Looking at the two award-winning photos, it is not difficult to figure out that Ho is fond of old buildings.
Born to a father from Hong Kong and a mother from Guangzhou, Ho was raised in Guangzhou but moved to Hong Kong when he turned 16.
His first home in the city was in the Sham Shui Po neighborhood, and Ho says he was deeply drawn by its beauty.
“Every tong lau, or tenement building, was unique, but they followed certain city planning. They appeared in line with the neighboring buildings, but were painted in different colors, yielding much vibrancy to the community,” he says.
Meanwhile, he found the modern structures repetitive and too high, disrupting the city’s landscape and shrinking the open sky dramatically.
To Kwa Wan and Kowloon City are also his favorite spots for photography. It is not only the neighborhoods that gave him a sense of old Hong Kong, but also the people living there, Ho says.
“I very much depend on people’s narratives to understand their daily lives inside the communities where I take pictures,” says the amateur photographer.
Ho would usually drop by early in the morning, so that he would not disturb the business of the old small vendors. And the locals would open up to him.
With Hong Kong witnessing rapid urban renovation in recent years, Ho feels sorry that some of city’s old structures are disappearing.
“Many old Hong Kong photos are breathtakingly stunning, such as those showing planes flying low right above the Kowloon Walled City. But they have long become history,” he says.
According to Ho, Hong Kong is lacking awareness about the need to preserve cultural and historical structures.
Preserving old towns will ensure that the city has more historical landmarks, he says.
No amount of money can compensate for the nostalgia that old buildings evoke, Ho says, adding that once something is gone, it is gone forever.
“Many places that I visited in the past have vanished,” he says. “While change may be inevitable, what I can do is to take more photos and try to keep a record of the city.”
Speaking of the highly dense environment in Hong Kong, Ho says he took time to get used to it.
“It was too dense and I could barely see the sky. But the city’s buildings are so distinctive that everyone can recognize Hong Kong from my pictures.”
A good thing about the city is that one can still enjoy the beauty of nature here, despite all the urban pressures.
Sometimes all it takes is a ten-minute journey to escape the concrete jungle and lose oneself in the natural environs, Ho points out.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept. 2.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
[Chinese version 中文版]
HK student faces criticism in China over award-winning photo (July 14, 2016)
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