For those of us who have never been to Hong Kong before, it sure does look like a cool place to visit. An amalgamation of culture and ideology, the financial hub seems almost unimaginable to those who have never walked its busy streets. The Hong Kong-based photographer Issac Lam, and Taiwanese artist John Yuyi, teamed up to present two varying sides of the city in their latest project. Through a series of photographs, they explore the city as an inhabitant and tourist, colliding their vision of a “really really special and unique style of culture.”
In conversation with It’s Nice That, Issac and John discuss their recent project City by City. They first met on the set of the shoot. As they’re from opposite sides of China (Issac from Hong Kong and John from Taiwan) the two creatives followed each other on Instagram and only exchanged small interactions before finally meeting each other in person a few years later. Issac adds, “Sometimes she’d upload Instagram Stories in Cantonese (the language spoken in Hong Kong) and I thought she was very funny.” And upon finding out that John was coming to Hong Kong to shoot for Forbes magazine, the two got together to work on the personal project.
“From my point of view, the shoot’s intention hopes to remind local people that Hong Kong is such a unique and powerful city and we should always be proud of it, despite the fact that some people have said that the city is dying”, says Issac on his artistic aims. At the same time, the photographer also hopes to “present [his] home in an interesting way to someone who doesn’t know the place.”
Through thoughtful backdrop choices, the series sees a mixture of the old, historic parts of the city with modern-day Hong Kong. Combined with John’s signature body art and typical Hong-Kong-ese fashion moments, the series merges Issac’s native knowledge with John’s “fantasy” of the city. For John, the artist acknowledges that she is an outsider and in turn, has an inherent “touristic view” of the place. However she tries to avoid cliche touristy associations, asserting that, “When you try to show an admiration to a certain culture, you need to make sure your local friends also think that it’s okay.” Fundamentally, she surmises, “I simply want to tell people how crazily beautiful Hong Kong is. It has my love forever.”
For Issac, his photographic vision has a filmic lens. “I love vintage things, especially 90s Hong Kong culture which produced so many good movies. It’s a very influential era for the rest of Asia as it saw the likes of Faye Wong, Tat Ming Pair, Four Heavenly Kings, Wong Kar Wai films, Stephen Chow movies.” All in all, the photographer wants to “present the nation’s collective memories of Hong Kong” with the visual nostalgia of his childhood, as well as including John’s creative vision.
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