A Uncommon Hen’s-Eye View of Hong Kong’s Vanishing Rooftop Tradition


The district of Kowloon, Hong Kong, is a crowded place—there are 124,000 folks packed into every of its 18 sq. miles. Residences might be amazingly small. The dearth of parks doesn’t assist. So Kowloonians use no matter house they will discover, usually escaping to the tops of buildings to stroll their canine, cling laundry, or simply take a catnap.

Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze is one in every of them—solely he takes to the roof together with his digicam, documenting unsuspecting strangers on shorter buildings beneath. The photographs seem in his beautiful new guide Concrete Tales. “It’s daily life stuff, but it’s surprising to see it on the roof,” he says.

Jacquet-Lagrèze grew up within the suburbs of Paris, the place folks have yards and vehicles, and might even see the celebs. He sacrificed all of it for love, transferring right into a 200-square-foot house in Kowloon eight years in the past to be together with his spouse. Now they’ve simply 400 sq. toes to name their very own, however Jacquet-Lagrèze does not thoughts. The town is inspiring, its density enabling him to create collection like The Blue Second, photographed from rooftops.

Whereas taking pictures, Jacquet-Lagrèze usually glimpsed others who had been additionally out and about atop different buildings. As improvement started remodeling the cityscape, he frightened these communal rooftops may disappear. “This part of the city is now surrounded by modern buildings, and bit by bit these old buildings are being destroyed and replaced by really big, tall buildings with locked rooftops,” he says.

This—coupled together with his sheer curiosity in regards to the neighbors—impressed him to doc rooftop tradition whereas it is nonetheless round. Twice every week over the past 4 years, he rode an elevator up a highrise together with his Sony DSLR and a pair zoom and telephoto lenses. He hunkered down close to a ledge, munching on a snack as he waited for folks to look. Within the golden afternoon gentle, he photographed Kowloonians as they jumped rope, watered their crops, even burnt choices to their ancestors.

If spying on such tender moments of solitude sounds creepy, Jacquet-Lagrèze says it is par for the course on Kowloon’s rooftops. Whereas taking pictures the collection, he generally glimpsed folks larger up watching him. “Whenever you are on the rooftop in the open air, you know there are hundreds, if not thousands, of windows potentially looking at you,” he says.

Kowloon is ridiculously crowded, even up within the air.


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