NOWADAYS you have to look hard, but you can still see the occasional street barber, letter writer and even the odd ear picker plying their trades in the lanes of Sheung Wan and Western. It won't be long before these traditional scenes are simply memories recounted by grandparents, but before that happens the sites of old Hong Kong have been caught in a new photographic exhibition. Organised jointly by the Royal Asiatic Society (RAS) and the Antiquities and Monuments Office, 'Hong Kong Going Gone' is mainly the result of a photographic survey carried out in 1974 by the RAS in and around Western and Sheung Wan. 'The major objective of the survey was to record the local scene, emphasising the rapidly disappearing aspects. Several of the old buildings in the photographs have already been torn down,' said Susanna Siu Lai-kuen, curator of the Antiquities and Monuments Office. The photographs include buildings and everyday sights, such as hawkers' stalls and fortune-tellers' booths. 'While older citizens may view these photographs with nostalgia, it is hoped some images will highlight the flavour of daily life and the historic setting of our recent past,' Siu said. RAS council member Dr Dan Waters, an expert in buildings who came to Hong Kong in 1954, recalls his first memories. 'Many people from China flocked to Hong Kong. It was very overcrowded. We hadn't got the infrastructure that we have today, and people were pretty poor in those days. 'Hong Kong is changing rapidly, and, through this exhibition, we want to show how quickly it is going,' said 75-year-old Dr Waters. At present, it is estimated only six per cent of the buildings in Hong Kong are pre-World War II. It was in Sheung Wan and Western that the British first started developing Hong Kong in 1860 and the photographs act as a detailed historical catalogue of the changes. Chinese-style tenement building were built, consisting of large rooms that the landlords partitioned for families to share. There would be a communal kitchen and toilet at the back of the house. There were also Chinese-style shop-houses, with open-fronted shops on the ground floor and living accommodation above. Western and Chinese architectural influences were often mixed. 'The YMCA in Bridges Street in Sheung Wan is a mixture of Chinese and Western architecture. It has a Chinese tiled roof and certain Chinese features,' Dr Waters said. European-style concrete high-rises started to be built in the 50s and many Chinese people living in tenements moved to more Westernised flats. Dr Waters moved to Conduit Road in Mid-levels in 1955. 'You could see many more hawkers in those days. They used to sell 'aeroplane olives', which were thrown up to balconies and the buyer would throw down the money. Newspapers were delivered in the same way,' Dr Waters said. 'The only hawkers you see in Conduit Road now are one who sells bamboo for people to hang their laundry on, one who comes to grind knives and one who comes to buy old scrap metal and brass.' Many services were available on the streets, such as letter writers who were sought out by the illiterate. 'In Western, you could also get facial treatments. An old lady would put a heavy layer of powder on the customer's face, then hold a string of thread and move it up and down the face to take off dead skin,' Dr Waters said. Pigs and goats found wandering on the Peak were put into a pound near Pound Lane. The pictures show a rope-making shop in Fuk Sau Lane, an earthenware pot stall in Elgin Street, a carpentry workshop at Shing Wong Street and a bird shop at Cleverly Street. Different religions, mainly Chinese, Christian and Jewish, influenced the buildings in the area. The Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road, built in 1847, is often regarded as the city temple. The Lo Pan Temple at Ching Tin Terrace, built in 1885, is believed to be the only temple in Hong Kong dedicated to the carpenter god. At Hop Yat Church on Bonham Road, the congregation is the oldest Chinese protestant group, and the Ohel Leah Synagogue on Robinson Road, built in 1901, is the only surviving synagogue in Hong Kong. Western Market in Connaught Road was originally built in two blocks (a south block in 1858 and a north in 1906) and used as a wet market. But, in 1980, the south block was demolished and the north block turned into a tourist shopping complex 10 years later. The Mental Hospital on High Street, characterised by its arched two-storey granite facade, was built in 1892 to provide living quarters for European nursing staff. The building was converted into a mental hospital after World War II. In 1961, it became a day-care hospital and centre for psychiatric out-patients. Chinese residences are common in Western. Features like balconies, arched plaster window heads and fanlights reflect the influences of European architecture. Number 99 Caine Road is an impressive reminder of old Hong Kong's private mansions. The building was demolished in 1981, but the cobbler's stall next to it is still in operation in Aberdeen Street. Hong Kong has preserved 69 buildings. 'This year alone, we, the Antiquities Advisory Board, have declared eight monuments, including the Central Police Station, the Central Magistracy and Victoria Prison. Government House, as well as three University of Hong Kong buildings, were declared monuments,' Dr Waters said. 'I think we need to preserve the old. I get a lovely feeling when I go into an old building. A new building tends to be rather sterile,' he said. 'There's a Chinese saying, 'hungry for the new, forget the old', but we must not forsake what our forefathers left behind.' 'Hong Kong Going Gone' exhibition is on display at the Antiquities and Monuments Office in 136 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, until March 7.