What is it about photos of abandoned places that leaves our curiosity more curious than ever? Hong Kong’s Urban Fragment are a group of photography lovers that like to dabble in the more adventurous side of life – that of ruins and objects left behind from days gone by. They are serious adventurers, and take exploration to the next level! Read on to check out their awe-inspiring photos and words that will be sure to get your creative clock ticking!
1. Hello Urban Fragment. Can you tell us a little about yourselves? What does your Chinese Facebook group name mean – 遊棄人間?
Urban Fragment is a group of four passionate photographers, CM Lam, Egg Cheung, Tony Chan and Phoebe Yeung, and we all share the same interest of taking photographs in abandoned places. Our Chinese group name is 遊棄人間. The first two words mean to roam around an abandoned place and it has the same pronunciation as games (遊戲) in Chinese. The last two words mean the world of mortals, the human living place, so when all four words come together it represents that we visit an abandoned scene with a causal manner.
2. Your photography subject is very unique. How did you first get into it?
Egg: Time rewinds back to around 4 years ago, when Egg Cheung was roaming on the streets and coincidentally wandered into an abandoned shipyard and found the beauty of decay and thus, started the interest of urban exploring, of sharing abandoned photographs and then he met other members CM, Tony and Phoebe on the internet. Finally we founded Urban Fragment on 1st July 2012.
Phoebe: After studying fine art in Italy for two years, I found it a bit difficult to get back into the real life in Hong Kong. Everything here is just too fast and packed, so that’s why I like to find somewhere quiet and not that easy to be found. I love nature very much and abandoned places is definitely high on my list.
Tony: Two years ago, I found some abandoned photos on the internet. I fell in love with them and that’s when I started my photography journey.
3. What is it about ruins and abandoned places that excites you?
Egg: The scenery of an abandoned places can not be pre-set, which means humans make use of the place before and then leave it after. Such progress is like making wine, and we taste it with a camera.
Phoebe: To know about the culture, to understand a bit more about the city. To explore those secret places and not the ones that most people already know about.
Tony: In every different abandoned area, you never know what you will see or meet in the next second. Every time it’s a new adventure. Through some of the things which have been left behind, I will imagine how the people lived their lives before. Sometimes, I will also think that it’ll be so perfect if the end of the world is like that too.
4. When you enter an abandoned area, what thoughts are running through your head?
Egg: Probably the history of the place, when it was still in use.
Phoebe: Something visual I guess. A corner can be a backdrop of a drama; broken household utensils can make an installation. Just use your imagination, and everything is inspiring.
Tony: When I enter an abandoned area, I think about how it was operated before. When did the people leave this place? And how?
5. If you could choose one of your photos to represent the essence of ruins and abandonment in Hong Kong, which would it be and why?
Egg: I would choose the one with fishes decorating a notice board, which was covered by tree roots. It is located in an abandoned school. Due to low birth rates and a decrease in student numbers, there was a trend of school closures which started in 2004. Many schools were forced to close at the time, and this is quite representative of Hong Kong.
Phoebe: I have a photo which was taken in Yau Tong a couple of years ago. There was an almost collapsed stone house with some tall buildings under construction at the back. I was in the stone house looking out through the window. Hong kong keeps changing all the time. To me, contrasts are the signature of the city. Old and new, poor and rich… I’m not a political person and don’t want to complain about anything but I just want to use images to document the changes.
6. Tell us, how do you find these abandoned places? Do you do lots of research or do you just happen to stumble upon these curious places? You guys are real adventurers, aren’t you!
Egg: We pay attention to any kinds of news like land auctions, urban renewal projects or heritage property open days. I will spend time looking at maps too. Abandoned places are usually covered by trees,so finding clues around the place by judging the density of forested area or a street view may help to determine exactly where they are. There is a word “Urbex” to describe our interest, it is the shortened form of urban exploring, and we are Urbexers, aka. urban explorers.
7. What kind of cameras do you carry on your explorations? Are you using analogue or digital? And have you ever experimented with one of our Lomography cameras?
Egg: For film, I use GF670, a medium format camera and iPhone for digital. I have tried Lomography cameras before like Semena 8m and fisheye #2.
Phoebe: There is no limitation for cameras. I use both analogue and digital. It totally depends on the objects you are going to capture and what kind of feeling or mood you want to achieve. Different cameras have different characters. The camera is just a tool. I don’t know what paintbrush Picasso used but I believe he could paint very well no matter what paintbrush he was using.
Tony: For me, I use a micro 4/3 Camera with manual lens.
8. Out of all the ruins you have discovered so far, which is your favourite and why? What makes that particular one’s story so special?
Egg: There is an abandoned secondary school, and what makes it stand out from other abandoned places is that it still has all it’s educational stuff inside, so we felt like we were back at school when we were there.
9. We’re curious as to whether you have any new projects on the horizon? Are there any any particular places of abandonment in Hong Kong you are desperate to visit?
Yes, but we are sorry to say that we need to keep it a secret right now, so please stay tuned on our Facebook Page…
10. And finally, do you have any advice for budding photographers out there? Other than courage and a great sense of adventure, what else does it take to capture photos similar to yours?
Egg: Shoot more and search for your own style, and then it will become your signature.
Phoebe: Stay curious and do what you really want to do.
Thank you so much Urban Fragment for such a fascinating insight into your passion for exploring and photographing abandoned places. To keep up-to-date with where Urban Fragment are discovering and exploring, hop on over to their Facebook Page to check out more of their amazing photos and stories!