Romain Jacquet-Lagreze is a French photographer that has been based in Hong Kong since 2009. This chapter of his life revealed a new potential – the potential to produce incredible work that reflects on his experiences, impressions and interests.
For the past 6 years, he has been working on a series of photographs, each one focusing on a different aspect of the city. “The Blue Moment” focuses on the fleeting moments between day and night when the city is enveloped in a surreal, deep blue haze, while “Wild Concrete” depicts the resilience of nature in the middle of Hong Kong’s busiest districts.
Romain’s efforts were recognized and some of his photographs were published in a coffee table book by a local publisher Asia One. And so this quest for landscapes continued and Romain worked on adding to his series in the span of 4 years.
You may recognize him from our group of 10 upcoming photographers and today Romain shares with us some insights into his current and ongoing projects.
The Blue Moment
“Each day at the very last moment of dusk, the sky takes on a deep blue tinge which is then reflected onto everything that is below. During this very brief moment that only lasts a minute or two a blue veil envelops Hong Kong and releases a mystical atmosphere.
Photography is a way to cast fleeting moments in still images. Moments don’t last; places and people disappear in time. One particular day I was shooting the city at sunset, bright light washed out most of the colors, you could feel the heat through the images. I decided to stay a little longer to watch the sun going down and the city lighting up. I witnessed how just for few minutes the city was enveloped in a deep blue haze. The blueness projected itself ferociously onto the buildings that looked colorless just a little while before. I was deeply impressed. The only way to eternalize this ephemeral moment was with my camera.
The surreal character of this blue-laced imagery is enhanced by the composition: structures and nature are framed as they were cut up and put together. The density of the city is mirrored by nature that’s as intense.”
“Focusing solely on the phenomena of trees sprouting from residential buildings in Hong Kong, Wild Concrete compares the living conditions between plants and humans. Such peculiar sight of ‘wild concrete’ is by no means exclusive. They can be found everywhere in the heart of the city: roots spiralling down the external pipes of a Mong Kok loft; shoots lurking behind a window frame of an apartment in Central hills; or branches spreading across a residence in Sham Shui Po, collapsing it from the inside out.
The sense of human alienation and indifference is equally embodied by these clusters of trees standing aloof in midst of the foreign human settlements. On a more positive note, the saplings share the same exceptional qualities as their human counterparts: perseverance, diligence, and independence. Despite the harsh surroundings, both plants and humans strive for upward mobility and a better life with their high adaptability and flexibility.”
These fascinating series are a new perspective on a city we’ve all known in a different light. Romain brings out the details that go unnoticed; the beautiful patterns and dualities of nature and man made objects.
The structures of Hong Kong dominate the city; they change the landscape and are the perfect playing ground for artists and photographers. To find out more about the projects, we had a little chat with Romain about his work, aspirations and thoughts on photography.
What is your main message as a photographer that you try to channel through your works?
With my photography, the main purpose is to record and document (in an artistic way), the city that has been inspiring me for many years.
Hong Kong is very unique in terms of urban planning and architecture due to its particular topography with very little flat lands and plenty of mountains and islands.
The sheer density of buildings, the contrasts in architectural styles and the fast-pace evolution of the city are all the aspects that makes this place so special visually.
The main themes that have been fascinating me for the last 6 years are:
– the unmatched vertical expansion of the city (“Vertical Horizon”, “The Blue Moment”)
– the relationship between the city and the nature (“Wild Concrete”, “The Blue Moment”)
– the disappearance of what used to incarnate the essence of Hong Kong (“HK Neon Signs” and “The Old Shops”)
What helps you define your style and stay inspired?
Hong Kong is a “new city” that has been evolving at a very fast-pace for several decades. I’ve been living here for only 7 years and it already feels like every districts has changed drastically compared to when I arrived. Many buildings disappeared and have been replaced by taller and fancier ones. This never-ending urban evolution creates an urge in me for recording things before they disappear. And although I have been exploring the city a lot these past 7 years, there is always a lot to see. It feels like never-ending discovery process.
Could you name some photography trends or shifts that you’re noticing?
In the past 5 years, I feel there was a really huge boom in the photography industry. The decreasing price of the gear, which are technically getting better and better, paired with the surge of social networks like Facebook and Instagram allowed many newcomer to start creating their own content and reach a large audience.
This resulted mainly in a standardisation of photography rather than in a big-bang of creativity. If you spend some time on these social networks, you will notice that pages with the biggest audience are the ones showing the same style of imagery mixing lifestyle atmosphere with dramatic scenery.
The typical Instagram shot is now a staged photo with one person faking a natural pose surrounded by a pretty natural landscape or a cityscape background. I believe it is a trend that is going to die out soon as people get more and more exposed to it. Eventually, it will just feel the way we look back at the typical stock photos from the 90s, with smiling businessmen shaking hands in a neutral office background.
Exhibition at the Blue Lotus Gallery, Hong Kong
Romain is going to have an exhibition at the Blue Lotus Gallery on Saturday, the 6th of May. The exhibition will run until the 24th of June. If you happen to be in Hong Kong, visit his exhibition and share your thoughts and impressions with us.
Opening: 6 May – 24 June (2017)
Opening Hours: Tue-Sat 2-6 pm
Address: Blue Lotus Gallery 1606 Chai Wan Industrial City, Phase 1 60 Wing Tai Road, Chai Wan, Hong Kong
About the exhibition:
‘Hong Kong Upside Down’ is an exploration of Hong Kong’s mesmerizing cityscapes from two opposite angles. French photographer Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze points his camera upwards and expresses Hong Kong’s vertical élan in a series called ‘Vertical Horizon’ while Tugo Cheng investigates Hong Kong from a bird’s eye view as revealed in ‘City Patterns’.
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