Urbanity Image Review #4

Taken in Hong Kong, March 2014. For the record, I shot a total of 32 rolls of Ilford HP5 and AGFA APX 400 on this trip – approximately 1000 shots for a total of 13 final images for the exhibition. A hit rate of 1.3% if my math is correct? Hmmm, if you are going to hold an exhibition you better get shooting!

Whilst in Hong Kong, I also committed to trying my hand at some night (and daylight) photography using a flash and fast lenses. I can’t quite remember if I had the flash on for this shot? I suspect not or else the foreground would be a lot brighter? As you can tell, I am not much of a strobist!

The Temple St Night Market was a great source of opportunities. It is a tourist market with a seedy side. There are plenty of stalls with touristy trinkets and some junky second hand stalls. Staking out ground behind the stalls are low rent prostitutes plying their trade in stairwells, ready to take prospective clients “upstairs”.

I would have loved to shoot some of these ladies but suspect that the best case result would have been a smashed camera… A local guide here might have helped? Photographing “borderline” activities is something I avoid as a chicken hearted street photog. Being acutely aware of what “borderline” means to different people is very important.

A number of stall holders had “no photo” signs prominently displayed. So I had to be careful with my camera. The 28mm lens here worked a treat – I was able to shoot many things without anyone being completely sure if they were in frame or not. You don’t have to point your camera directly at a subject to get them into frame with a 28mm lens. A 21mm would have been even better! Working with a rangefinder here really helped too – people think they are toy cameras!

Whilst I have not photographed the Vic Market in Melbourne, I have heard similar reports from mates who have been confronted by stall holders demanding why they took a photo – makes me wonder what kind of shenanigans goes on at the Vic Market. There is a fair “Underbelly” to the market, methinks.

Moving quickly through the Night Market and being decisive with shots worked a treat. Take your shot and move on. If you miss it, too bad. Lingering makes you look dodgy.

urbanity 4


The framing in this image is directly inspired by Fan Ho’s work, which I admire very much. His technique of using inconspicuous or natural framing is something I love. During my last trip to Hong Kong I truly did my best to channel my inner ‘Ho!

October 31, 1954. New York, NYThe Night Market image incorporates the two techniques of framing and changing perspective – specifically breaking the “fourth wall” of an image by getting behind the scene. Not a perfect use of the phrase “fourth wall” but I think it gets the point across. Walking behind the stalls provided the action for the camera.

Vivian Maier’s image on the left here provides an excellent example of this technique. You can read more about it here.

The market shot is taken from footpath running behind the stalls. The fabric walls of the stall provide a natural frame and diffuse the light subtly across the image.

There are some leading lines in the fabric “tunnel” that draw the eye straight to the subjects shopping the stall. You can read more about Fan Ho’s use of inconspicuous and conspicuous framing here.

7633234_origThe image that got me thinking about inconspicuous framing was this one by Ho.

The fabric is very much a feature of the lanes and markets of Hong Kong even today. The Temple Street Night Market immediately reminded me of this image and got me pretty excited!

Ho’s use of the fabric as an inconspicuous frame for the mother and child is just masterful. The light coming through the top section creates some additional interest.

Do yourself a favour and check out Fan Ho’s work. You will not regret it!





  1. Urbanity Image Review #8 | Inconspicuosity - December 7, 2014

    […] inspiration for this image is the same as the one here and also covers some of the challenges of shooting at the […]


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