Michael Wolf

Image A27 from the series Architecture of Density,
Hong Kong, 2003

C - print, lamda process
100/130 cm

Image 1 from the series Hong Kong Back Door, Hong Kong, 2003

C - print, lamda Process
100/130 cm

Courtesy of the artist

Michael Wolf has lived and worked in Hong Kong for ten years. Stimulated by the region’s complex urban dynamics, he makes dizzying photographs of its architecture. One of the most densely populated metropolitan areas in the world; Hong Kong has an overall density of nearly 6,700 people per square kilometer. The majority of its citizens live in flats in high-rise buildings. The trappings of the people are still visible here: their days inform the detail of these buildings. Bits of laundry and hanging plants pepper the tiny rectangles of windows- the only irregularities in this orderly design. If there is no more space inside, something must go out. In order to survive in this dense environment, one must be able to adapt. In comparison to the ordered and well-planned European cities, Hongkong is almost like a plant – it grows organically, making space for itself wherever possible. Wolf finds in each building a singular character, despite its functional purpose and massive form. Shek Kip Mei Estate, Hong Kong’s oldest public housing estate, is composed of 100 living space- rooms, each closet-like in size at only 100 square feet and built in response to a devastating fire in the 1950s that left thousands homeless. In a new series of photographs called “100 x 100,” Michael Wolf captures the residents of this housing complex who are almost enveloped by the diminishing space around them, their belongings stacked to the ceiling. The series presents an alternate and more human perspective on the socio-economic state of Hong Kong. The repetition of each resident’s expression mirrors struggle for space in an overpopulated urban environment and redefine the notion of “modern living” in China.