The red glow from the safe-light infuses the darkroom with a sense of warmth, and one can barely make out a collage of faces plastered on the back wall. 'My baby daughter,' explains Marcus Oleniuk, a Canadian photographer who has been based in Hong Kong for six years. People and their lives have always been a central theme in Oleniuk's work. Last year he published Living With It, a collection of 50 black-and-white portraits chronicling 50 days of Hong Kong under the spectre of Sars. 'I've always been very interested in social issues,' Oleniuk says. 'I couldn't really even see a picture that didn't have people in it, you know? This interest in people has led Oleniuk to find material in the streets, whether in Hong Kong or among the drug users of New Delhi. 'The stuff I'm mostly interested in won't get hung up on walls. It's not really news either. It's reportage, it is documentary. It's trying to tell a story about what it's like to be alive at this point in time,' he says. Despite the trend towards digital photography, Oleniuk prefers working with black-and-white film. 'I like the tactile sense of something physically existing. When you have film and you go into the darkroom with it, you breathe life into it and you really make it your own.' Oleniuk tries to capture and breathe life into the little moments. Something as mundane as an old woman pushing a rubbish-filled cart once stopped him in his tracks. 'I saw her head appear above this lip of a hill on Elgin Street. Just then a Bentley came up behind her and honked at her and I just thought, 'It's so Hong Kong',' he recalls. It is these 'slices of life' that Oleniuk wants to be remembered for. 'Everybody's got a story to tell. It may not be the greatest story ever told, but for most people the story of their lives is quite interesting.' The situations he encounters often raise dilemmas. 'A baby is abandoned on the street, nearly dead but not quite. Flies and maggots are covering her. Do you photograph that?' he asks. 'It makes you confront yourself, to wonder why you're doing it, really. This is a never-ending sort of process, knowing yourself.' As suggested by the many faces that stare from the back wall of his darkroom, Oleniuk encounters a wide range of experiences through his street photography. 'The camera gives you licence to approach people,' he says. 'You have the ability to be in places where you actually have no business being in, like someone's living room.' Even so, he runs up against difficulties trying to tell the story of ordinary people in Hong Kong. 'People in Hong Kong are more guarded. ... I could learn to speak Cantonese like a local or do everything I could, but there are still places that I could never penetrate. So you do the best that you can. You just skim the surface.' But like those faces on the back wall, sometimes even the surface can reveal deep humanity.