New research has shown that Hong Kong still holds the title of the world’s most expensive property market, and has done so for the last five years. The average price of a home in the self-governing region of China stands at a staggering £1 million as of April 2019. With high demand and short supply, properties are becoming one of Hong Kong’s most valuable commodities. But with such little space inside each one, it’s not just the property that’s increasing in value; the space outside it is too.
Equally one of the world’s most densely populated cities, claustrophobic homes leave residents little room to do the most basic things, like hang up their laundry. But, never ones to miss a trick, Hongkongers have taken to using parks, playgrounds and fences as makeshift drying racks. A revealing act of resourcefulness, these displays serve to shine a light on the increasing worth of public space in Hong Kong.
It was one of these scenes that first caught photographer Jimmi Ho’s eye back in 2017. “I was starting to build a website for my portfolio and I began going through all of the photographs I had taken,” he says. “One in particular from 2015 piqued my interest; it was of a man drying his clothes in a playground, and behind him was a colourful, narrow building. I suddenly had the idea to document this citywide phenomenon.”
Over the course of two years, Jimmi wandered around Hong Kong, building up a picture of the city’s scramble for space. But what he ended up capturing was also the creativity of the people who live there. Unlawful as they may be, these intriguing arrangements of clothes are testament to the ingenuity and hardiness of the city’s residents. Returning two or three times to each area, Jimmi was determined to investigate these spectacles. “I wanted to understand the different techniques they use to dry their laundry," he explains.
The resulting documentation shows improvised clothes lines mounted to trees, road signs and street lamps; hangers attached to air conditioning units and handrails; and bedsheets draped over benches and children’s climbing frames. Gathered into a body of work, the various images of the drying clothes against urban backdrops began to resemble installation shots, eventually informing the title of the series: Laundry Art.
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