I revisit my former home! Hong Kong. Twenty years after the handover from British to Chinese rule, 20 years after I left, the city again fascinates me. For as I witness people dashing through pouring rain along wet, congested Wan Chai streets, of pavements shimmering with iridescent hues, cinematic fantasies flash through my mind.
Things seem to have come full circle. Just as the notorious Walled City of Kowloon inspired the bleak, neon-soaked, perpetually dank and rain-soaked dystopia of Blade Runner, so its sequel now cedes to the alternate reality of neonopolis.
The more I wander with my camera, ideas formulate. I think about the world of Chinese cyber espionage in the era of Xi Jinping, and ruminate on how mainland intelligence agents are in the territory gathering information for the State! How coercion and meddling in local politics from China is sowing confusion and fear. Encouraging mistrust. I ponder equally about the engineering marvel that is Hong Kong. A labyrinth imbued with dynamic energy flow. Commerce, logistics! Public transport that efficiently whisks cramped commuters from their cubicle homes to their cubicle offices.
I witness legions of office workers oblivious to their predicament. Hypnotized by their smart phones. Commuters devouring social media piped into their brains via hand held devices!
I see around me towering skyscrapers, examples of extreme wealth. A realm strangely futuristic all the while rooted in the present. I consider the outlandish costs of rents and how buyers from China drive real estate prices into the stratosphere. Greed. Hong Kong, with its millions of people, thousands of tower blocks and a shortage of affordable homes. More thoughts of sci-fi/existential films such as Metropolis, Citizen Cane, 1984 crowd my mind. I see with clarity all around me a ‘film set’! A stage in which to try something I’ve not tried before.
Hence I begin Neonopolis: My intention is to tackle a variety of themes. Topics such as the banality of commuting, our addiction to gadgets, social media, high rise living, big city life. The changing political landscape, and mainland China's meddling with Hong Kong politics and business.
I take the basic principle of street photography ie. capture reality as it happens, and then through captions that are misleading, warp that reality into a visual narrative more akin to a science fiction film. Through a glass darkly, I hold up a mirror to the twisted skeins of stories being played out on the seething streets.
The titles by writer, Jason Gagliardi. His words help guide the viewer into a world that is at once an exaggeration and a satire, a strangely beautiful vision of a parallel universe and a stark reminder of where we could find ourselves in a not too distant future.