In Depth: Hong Kong – A Film Photographer's Paradise


In a travel article I wrote several years ago, for a publication that no longer exists, I wrote that “Hong Kong is an in-between sort of place. A place caught between cultures and political systems.”

I was in between places too. Each time I have visited Hong Kong it has always been as a convenient stop-over on my way to another country. But in Hong Kong I also found, as countless others before me, a unique pocket of East Asia that felt both comfortingly familiar (much of Hong Kong reminded me of London) and beautifully distinct.

Photo credits: @alexgray

It’s perhaps this in-between-ness that gives Hong Kong its magic. Over the years artists have continually been drawn to the city, and its amalgamation of Chinese and Western culture, including legendary graphic designer Henry Steiner.

Steiner arrived in Hong Kong in 1961, intending to work there for just a few months before returning to the United States. Instead, he has remained based in Hong Kong until today, shaping the region’s visual design landscape, and earning a reputation as “the father of Hong Kong design.”

Steiner’s art, like his adopted home, is a beautiful blend of East and West. He consciously explores these ideas in his work, such as with his iconic 2008 Hong Kong Vienna Opera Ball poster which now adorns our own Lomo’Instant Automat Henry Steiner Edition.

© Henry Steiner

“The cities of Hong Kong and Vienna make up my cross-cultural identity,” Steiner told us on the launch of his Lomo’Instant Automat special edition. “The poster also reflects my cross-cultural design style through the split imagery of the two faces.”

On the theme of cross-cultural pollination Steiner had this to say: “The virtues of cross-culturalism? Cross-pollination, the creation of new nuances, extended sensibilities. Invigoration of one’s own tradition by taking a holiday in another. Humility in the presence of other cultures, understanding and respect for alternative ways of approaching life. And the invaluable sense of distance in seeing – albeit briefly – the exotic as commonplace and oneself and one’s beliefs and being, after all, alien.”

Henry Steiner is someone who recognised the creative benefits of cross-culturalism, at a time when the world seemed much larger and less connected. Yet he found in Hong Kong a perfect concoction of East and West.

Credits: bcpleung, haydenwilliams, dupdupdee & chu-hsuan63

Hong Kong has long been a paradise for photographers, going all the way back to the work of Fan Ho. Through his remarkable street photography, we can glimpse the city as it was in the 1950s and 60s, and its rapid transformation into a financial powerhouse in the East. Fan Ho was a true master of light and composition, and looking at his photographs it is hard not to fall in love with the romance and emotion they exude.

Remnants of Fan Ho’s Hong Kong still exist today, but now they are mostly fragments, hidden or contorted amid the modern city, but still a vital part of its history and character.

Credits: gocchin, adrianchan, cloudishballon, bcpleung & se1

Canadian photographer Greg Girard is another artist who fell in love with Hong Kong, having seen a picture of Hong Kong Harbour taken by another photographer, Eliot Elisofon. “I wouldn’t have been able to articulate at that time exactly what was going on in that photograph,” he told us, “but it was a non-glamorous clash of things and that somehow appealed to me – things not going together that were together.”

Girard first visited Asia in the 1970s, like Steiner, intending a short trip, and ended up staying for more than 30 years and living in Hong Kong, Tokyo and Shanghai. In a recent interview with us he talked about feeling at home in, and appreciative of, a culturally mixed environment. “I don’t think there should be any limitation about geography, or culture, or anything else in leading you to explore and connect with other people and other places.”

Credits: francislee & fishmonkeycow

Even now, Hong Kong continues to be a source of constant inspiration for film photographers. Whether photographing the bustling streets of ​​Sham Shui Po and Mong Kok, the towering Skyscrapers of its financial center, or the surrounding mountains and numerous hiking trails, with a camera in hand and plenty of film you can never get tired of exploring every inch of the city

Architect and film photographer Thomas Cheung shared his own images of Hong Kong with us a few months back, and told us about his desire to capture the essence of the city and its landscape, as it continues to rapidly transform, both physically as well as in terms of its culture and politics. “I felt a deep urge to document every corner of Hong Kong, preserving its daily moments and vanishing old scenes that still existed.”

Credits: francislee

Then there’s our Lomography Community, who have amassed thousands of photos of Hong Kong in numerous guises over the years, and shared them here on their LomoHomes.

Lomographer @Francislee’s monochromatic street photography often reminds us of classic Hong Kong photography of the past. Though he also loves to put a Lomographic spin on his shots, including capturing scenes of the Star Ferry Pier while testing the Lomomatic 110 with LomoChrome film.

Meanwhile Japanese photographer @gocchin, uses double exposures to show the city in a spectacularly new way, combining shots of the iconic “Monster Building” block of flats with natural scenes to create stunning scenes of unreality.

Credits: gocchin

Hong Kong is a place of constant change. It is full of contradictions – both traditional and cosmopolitan, exclusive while familiar, a city and also so much more. One thing we’re sure of is that it remains a photographer’s dream, and that its future will continue to be captured on film.

Thank you to all our incredible community members for their Hong Kong film photographs!

Where's your dream location for film photography? Let us know in the comments!

written by alexgray on 2024-07-10 #culture #places #in-depth #culture #hong-kong #asia #cross-culture #eastmeetswest #in-depth #henry-steiner


  1. mackiechartres
    mackiechartres ·

    excellent article and awesome photos. congrats to all the mentioned lomographers, and special salute to @bcpleung and @Francislee which I follow with pleasure !

  2. francislee
    francislee ·

    Thanks to Lomography for selecting and introducing my works

    @MACKIECHARTRES Thank you for your appreciation

  3. bcpleung
    bcpleung ·

    @mackiechartres Thanks for your appreciation!

  4. inmemoryofhk
    inmemoryofhk ·

    Thank you, @MACKIECHARTRES, for the mention. I'm happy to share the film photography and culture of Hong Kong with the entire Lomography community.

More Interesting Articles