Be Still Hong Kong
Publisher: Asia One
For a moment, one night, the normal crush of cars, trucks, and buses on Des Voeux Road is gone. The sidewalk clear of pedestrians, streetlamps spill light across vacant crosswalks and tram stops, and the normally oppressive high-rises seem to relax, free, if only briefly, of the constant stream of traffic.
In the new book Be Still, Hong Kong, you can catch a glimpse of these rare moments of quietude in the chaotic life of our city. The book is the work of photographer Douglas Khoo, who grew up in Malaysia before moving here a decade ago.
There's no doubt that Khoo's black-and-white pictures are remarkable. The sights he captures - including the IFC, Central Ferry Piers, the airport, and more - will be familiar even to new arrivals. But without the customary crowds, the avenues and escalators seem wider, less cramped, even homey.
And despite the undeniable tranquility, there's something spooky in all these unpopulated streets, especially the daylight scenes. Look at a stack of empty water bottles, a tram devoid of passengers, or a bus sitting idle at a deserted bus stop, and you might think you're watching some old end-of-the-world movie like Mad Max or Day of the Triffids. Whether this unsettled feeling is intentional or not, you're likely to experience it at least briefly while flipping through the book.
While there's not much text in the book, you probably won't miss it, since the photographs don't require a lot of explanation. Khoo's introduction, describing the genesis of the project and his subsequent efforts to catch the city at rest, is probably all you'll read. The index of photos at the end of the book is welcome, since it's organised according to location.
The book isn't your only chance to see Khoo's pictures. The free exhibition at the R&C Design Library in North Point continues through January 7, but the pictures are worth seeing in any form. While Hong Kong may not truly sleep, thanks to these photographs we can at least see that it stops to breathe once in a while.