Now based in Hong Kong, French photographer Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze has been spending the past few years capturing the Fragrant Harbour’s organised chaos through his camera lens. He speaks to Gwen Pew following the opening of his exhibition, Vertical Horizon, at Artistry last week.
22 Oct 2013:
You’ve lived in Hong Kong for quite a few years now – why did you decide to move there?
In 2009 I was already in Asia, working in Tokyo as a visual artist. Then my contract ended and I graduated from my university in France, but I was not keen on working in France and wanted to keep traveling in Asia instead. In Japan I heard many good things about Hong Kong and how futuristic it was looking. So I decided to go witness it for myself.
Was the city a love-at-first-sight thing, or did it take you some time to get used to it?
At first I felt very impressed by the city, but I was thinking that it was much too packed, crowded and noisy. It took me some time to adapt to this new environment and to fully fall in love with the city’s lifestyle, the messiness of the streets and the unique visual impact of the buildings.
When did you first start taking photos of the city?
When I arrived in Hong Kong I was more focused on visual arts, but little by little, I grew fonder and fonder of the city, and I wanted to record it with the best accuracy I could. So in early 2010 I bought a camera and I started to switch my way of depicting Hong Kong from visual art to photography.
Tell us a bit more about Vertical Horizon – how did this set of photographs come about? What are you trying to show with them?
The project Vertical Horizon came up naturally. In 2011, as I was exploring the different districts of the city, I was taking many photos and among them were a few that I shot with a “Vertical Horizon angle”. In early 2012 I gathered four or five of these photos that used this angle, then the idea of making a larger series came up as I was sure I could find more places fitting this angle in HK. So I went through a thorough exploration of the city in order to find the best spots. My leitmotiv was mainly to share with people an unusual point of view on this city and how unique and impressive it could look.
Your images in this series all show a fascination with shapes and patterns formed by buildings – do you consciously go and look for these spaces, or are they usually places that you just come across?
Since my childhood, I have always been very into geometric shapes. As a kid I used to draw pages and pages of geometric shapes to depict sceneries or totally abstract patterns. So in a way, when I am creating these photos, I am searching for the spaces that will offer me the best way to express my thirst for geometric shapes.
Do you think the concept of Vertical Horizon could be replicated in other places too, or is it unique to Hong Kong?
I think that Hong Kong is definitely the most fitting city most for the concept of Vertical Horizon. Indeed, even by always using the same angle, I can still convey many different concepts from chaos to sleek modernity or even abstractness. It’s all thanks to HK’s heterogeneous urban area. I am pretty sure that in some other big cities I could find some interesting shots, but I don’t think I would be able to get such a variety of patterns and subjects.
Sum up Hong Kong in three words…
Visceral, chaotic yet beautiful.