Old photos of 1970s Hong Kong show a city that is instantly familiar, yet strangely foreign
Hong Kong

Towers of glass and steel project the futuristic image of a Hong Kong that has traditionally discarded its own past on a path to establishing its place in the world as a major global entrepot. Physical remnants of yesterday have often been obliterated in collision with a society whose eyes were firmly fixed on visions of tomorrow and the hope it held.

Yet while the all-consuming modernity of Hong Kong’s 21st century urban milieu has erased much tangible evidence of old Hong Kong, even now potent reminders of days gone by often remain hidden in plain view, where they speak of a less frenzied way of life that resonates in times of pandemic and strife.

Shot circa the 1970s and collected in a new book, Hong Kong: Back in Time (2021, FormAsia), photographer Frank Fischbeck’s evocative imagery returns us to a place that is both instantly familiar and strangely foreign, a city so far removed from and yet so similar to the one in which we live today.

A master tailor with mannequins dressed in cheongsams. Photo: Frank Fischbeck
A shop owner enjoys a pipe of tobacco in a traditional Chinese store. Photo: Frank Fischbeck
Men with their songbirds in a Hong Kong teahouse. Photo: Frank Fischbeck
Workers put up scaffolding over an advert featuring the Marlboro Man. Photo: Frank Fischbeck
A small noodle factory in the city. Photo: Frank Fischbeck
A calligrapher at his stall. Photo: Frank Fischbeck
A worker making a bamboo dim sum steamer. Photo: Frank Fischbeck
A shop at the old Mong Kok bird market. Photo: Frank Fischbeck
Rice dough is squeezed through a perforated plate to make noodles. Photo: Frank Fischbeck
An egg seller at his stall. Photo: Frank Fischbeck
Customers buy scented agarwood in a local shop. Photo: Frank Fischbeck
A scribe assists an old woman. Photo: Frank Fischbeck