Derek Man photographs the social housing tension in his native home, Hong Kong
- Lucy Bourton
- 18 July 2017
Photographer Derek Man focuses his lens back to the city where he grew up for his most recent series, Close To Home. As an expatriate living in the UK for the past 12 years, the project strikes a balance between documentary style images of the housing situation at hand, but with an added personable touch by a photographer who knows it dearly.
Derek was initially contacted by Liverpool’s Open Eye Gallery to create a body of work focusing on Hong Kong. “The idea of housing came pretty naturally,” he tells It’s Nice That, “having lived in the UK for 12 years, every time I go back to Hong Kong I am struck by how quickly the cityscape is changing, how new buildings pop up in all matter of two or three years”.
Working with the help of the Society of Community Organisation, “a local NGO that have been helping people who live in sub-standard environments,” Derek’s photographs document a range of living situations in the city. “From a family of four living in one room, to middle-aged men residing in ‘coffin homes’ no bigger than a closet, the lack of affordable housing is forcing Hong Kong’s residents to live in substandard environments.” To expand the project, and display both sides of Hong Kong’s housing spectrum, Derek also photographed new developments with the inner city, particular in Kowloon, “where sub-divided flats and brand new developments often share the same street,” he explains.
As a native of the city, Derek explains: “The shortage of affordable housing was something that I’ve always heard about, and so did everyone else I spoke to, but it remained an abstract idea – it’s just something that happens to some people, somewhere. It’s kind of like they are literally and metaphorically in a box, but there’s no context around it.” Following on from photographing delicate portraits of his subjects in their homes, Derek decided to “place the situation back into the context of this world of new builds, multi-million pound flats and estate agents, to show how it happens under the same roof, in the same city.”
When viewing the photographs as a series the unfortunate difference between showrooms and overcrowded living accommodation flows through the project, collating "together a vision of a housing future that is recognisable globally, placing the lives of the people caught in this tension of the commodification of homes back into the wider social context”.
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.