City Weekend

Hong Kong through windows: how an eye injury gave this photographer a fresh view on his craft

Ho Pak-kei’s works capture iconic skylines through different perspectives

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 January, 2018, 12:15pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 January, 2018, 12:15pm

In a city where most are too busy to appreciate the view from their windows, not to mention the more than 200,000 residents living in the notorious and windowless “coffin cubicles”, photographer Ho Pak-kei, whose works highlight Hong Kong’s wealth inequality, is an exception.

“Whenever I ride a bus, train or when I’m at a restaurant, I always go for the window seat, because being able to see outside gives you a different perspective on society.”

A decade ago, Ho decided to recreate views of the city’s iconic skyscrapers by taking snaps through windows of different locations, documenting enchanting urban landscapes.

“However when I started to look around for backgrounds, I found that the places I’ve gone to capture these pictures were often high-end residential buildings or famous commercial landmarks.”

While such scenes stood out and drew the eye to the famous Hong Kong skyline, Ho says he thought to himself: “How come only the rich are able to enjoy such a view?”

In 2014, Ho suffered a setback when a tree branch fell on him during a hiking trip, piercing his right eye. For the next two months, he battled corneal erosion – a detachment of the eye’s outermost layer – which caused a partial loss of vision.

“The process was painful – blinking hurt, keeping my eyes opened hurt, looking around hurt. It was hard to see. I ended up having to keep them shut during the months of recovery,” he says.

In this period, he had time to think more deeply about what photography meant to him.

“There I was, laying on my bed staring at the window in my bedroom. I used to think I understood the world quite well. It wasn’t until my eye injury that I started to really get to know myself better.

“Now I am one who stands by the window all the time, looking at the beautiful scenery.”

The changing face of Hong Kong as it races full speed ahead

After his recovery, Ho adopted a different view towards his craft. He still shoots through windows, but cherishes the sights he takes in and the time spent capturing them through his lens.

Through his photographs, Ho says he hopes to see the world through different windows, along with others.

The works are also a projection of his views and feelings about Hong Kong.