Photographer Keith Macgregor captured Hong Kong’s disappearing previous

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Written by Oscar Holland, CNNHong Kong

Over the past 5 a long time, photographer Keith Macgregor has borne witness to dramatic change in Hong Kong.

His hanging photos doc a lifestyle that has quickly disappeared from sight: road stalls that made approach for chain shops, flat-bottomed boats whose residents now reside in condominium blocks, and squat buildings changed with — or dwarfed by — skyscrapers.

However within the 1970s and ’80s, when lots of his most arresting pictures had been taken, Macgregor was extra involved with producing photos for his postcard and calendar enterprise.

“I wasn’t a reportage photographer; I used to be a really business photographer,” he defined at Hong Kong’s Blue Lotus Gallery, the place he not too long ago exhibited work beneath the title “The Manner We Had been.”

“I needed to take images that folks would need to grasp on their partitions for 12 months, so I used to be all the time on the lookout for magnificence or drama.”

Solely with the facility of hindsight did Macgregor notice that he’d documented town’s misplaced heritage.

A quiet sanctuary in sleepless Hong Kong

“You simply did not know on the time that Hong Kong was going to vary to quickly,” he mentioned. “You took all of it with no consideration.”

A lot of his pictures concentrate on on a regular basis life for native residents — road scenes, the well-known harbor and outlying fishing villages. However he additionally captured the receding vestiges of the British Empire. Specifically, a hanging 1984 picture exhibits the final cricket match to be performed on a big inexperienced within the metropolis’s middle — a luxurious unimaginable in in the present day’s Hong Kong, the place land costs rank among the many highest on the planet.

Keith Macgregor Last Cricket Match 1984 Version 3

The final cricket match to be performed on a big inexperienced within the metropolis’s middle. Credit score: Courtesy Blue Lotus Gallery

“Inhabitants progress has made Hong Kong not as good a spot to take a look at, as a result of it is all higgledy-piggledy and coated with each sort of constructing you may think about going up into the sky,” Macgregor mentioned.

A resident from 1969 to 1992 — and a frequent customer since — the 72-year-old expressed regret that extra hasn’t been carried out to guard town’s architectural and concrete heritage.

A teashop on Hong Kong's Shanghai Street, pictured in 1982.

A teashop on Hong Kong’s Shanghai Avenue, pictured in 1982. Credit score: Courtesy Blue Lotus Gallery

“There is no open areas now,” he mentioned. “I miss all that terribly, and I want we might have preserved extra of it. However I feel Hong Kong continues to be a unprecedented place to go to.”

Neon previous

There’s one type of Hong Kong’s heritage that Macgregor is very enamored with: it is neon indicators.

Realizing that town’s iconic shows had been quickly disappearing (typically to get replaced with LED), the photographer got down to doc the remaining signage. He believes that, since 2001, he has photographed about about 500 of the promoting boards.

It was not merely for the sake of posterity. And whereas Macgregor admits that a lot curiosity in his work is pushed by nostalgia, his newest mission contains a up to date twist: His sequence, “Neon Fantasy,” sees him utilizing Photoshop to superimpose a number of neon indicators onto present-day road pictures.

Macgregor's "Neon Fantasy" series sees him compiling photos of Hong Kong's increasingly rare neon signs into single collages.

Macgregor’s “Neon Fantasy” sequence sees him compiling pictures of Hong Kong’s more and more uncommon neon indicators into single collages. Credit score: Courtesy Blue Lotus Gallery

The ensuing collages carry collectively dozens of promoting boards — from cartoonish characters to elaborate typography — into dreamlike tributes to a vanishing custom.

“I need to do my bit to protect the neon heritage of Hong Kong which has been sadly destroyed by the federal government,” he mentioned, criticizing the dearth of public cash made accessible for the indicators’ conservation.

“For me, that was the soul of Hong Kong — it was the rationale why vacationers beloved the place. It gave it a form of buzz.”



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