The architecture of Hong Kong is atypical, unique. The building area is only 24% of the territory because of its rocky land, solid or conversely too muddy, lush vegetation or protected. This explains a very high density of buildings to house 7.5 million inhabitants. Against lush green mountains, Hong Kong’s residential towers appear to look the same—tall, thin, arranged in clusters, differentiated only by their color palettes. When their floor plans are collected and displayed side by side, however, a rich set of typologies emerge: the slab, the H-block, the cruciform, the trident, etc. Each can be seen as an attempt to solve more efficiently the problem of housing in the face of limited land supply. And that’s the problem, because rent prices are the highest in the world. Hong Kong has the most expensive m2 of the globe and the inhabitants are less and less well housed, living partly in dilapidated small apartments, sometimes totally unhealthy.
Hong Kong is one of the richest territories in the world, it is also one of the most unequal. As of 2021, the city of 7.5 million has more than 5,000 billionaires, a figure that has grown 48% in five years, according to the Knight Frank Corporation’s annual wealth report. And 280,000 millionaires. But if the fortunes of the rich are increasing, so is poverty.
The high cost of living means that poor people suffer from an unfavorable quality of living as their limited income has to be spent on essential items of food consumption or other basic needs. Worse still, the high housing cost, no matter in the form of mortgage payment or rent, has sapped a large chunk of their meager income. Amidst overall prosperity, there actually is considerable poverty in Hong Kong society. The peculiar land and housing problems in Hong Kong result in considerable inadequacy, if not total deprivation, of basic accommodation. Especially since the average wait time for social housing is 5.8 years, 12 months longer than 3 years ago.
For this photographic project, realized from 2012 to 2017 in Hong Kong, the choice of the Polaroid format was decisive for breaking the classic codes of architectural photography. Here no large format, but 8.4 by 10.6 cm. The choice of black and white, in this photographic work, blurs the pastel colors and joyful, typically associated with these towers, highlighting the shape, the volumes. But above all, when this colorful camouflage is removed, one becomes more aware of the dramatic reality, the decay and the precariousness of these dwellings, and especially this poverty which affects more than 20% of the population.
Pascal Greco, self-taught filmmaker, cinematographer and photographer, Swiss & Italian (1978).
At the end of 2017, Greco presented Shadow, at LU in Nantes and at GIFF in Geneva, a magnetic and intense film with actress Asia Argento and Anna-Lou Castoldi that he codirected with Philippe Pellaud.
Now, Greco is finishing is first feature length documentary The Scavengers on the elderly, in Hong Kong, with insufficient retirement to cover their basic needs and expenses, and who, to meet their needs, collect paper, cardboard or sagex, to resell them at a ridiculous price. A first version of the film was presented in the FIFDH | International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights, in Geneva in 2019.
Six works of his photographs have been published. Kyoshu, nostalgie du pays (Infolio, 2007) presents moments of life across Japan. Seoul Shanghai Tokyo (idpure, 2010) brings together photographs that reveal the contrast between modern architecture and the dilapidated architecture of these three big cities, Ratrak (Verlhac, 2012), with Gabriel Mauron, reveals the ski resorts, at night, with the machine’s beam of light. No Cliché (Jane & Jeremy, 2013) offers Polaroids of architectures lost in the vastness of Iceland. Hong Kong – Perspectives, Prospectives, Typologies (Infolio & Mccm Creations, 2018) describes the typology of Hong Kong’s atypical and unique architecture. In April 2021, Greco released his book Hong Kong Neon (Infolio & Mccm Creations, 2021) which ended his diptych on Hong Kong.
In the early 2000’s, he started out in the fashion industry as a model and went on to organize fashion shows in New York and Tokyo.
Greco also worked, during 5 years, with young people without training or diploma and / or in social exclusion by helping them to create, write, play, direct and edit short films.
© text and pictures by Pascal Greco