Hong Kong is a place of contrasts; vertiginous pastel skyscrapers and labyrinthine streets are edged in by verdant mountains, fishing villages, and beaches. Fascinated by its landscape and history, German photographer Daniel Müller spent two weeks photographing the frenetic energy and melancholic loneliness of this city.
From its beginnings as a sparsely populated territory, where the main industries were fishing and farming, Hong Kong has become a global center for financial trading and the fourth most densely populated region in the world. Müller, intrigued by Hong Kong as a gargantuan metropolitan center, decided to book a stopover there when en route from Germany to Australia earlier this year. “I was always fascinated by this megacity”, he explains. “The more I read into it, the more interested I became. I had always imagined Hong Kong as this chaotic and stressful place, the type that gave inspiration to great movies like Blade Runner or Ghost in the Shell.” Hong Kong is frequently rendered as such; a futuristic void of frantic activity—and while Müller has captured something of this, his lens seems more interestingly focused on the loneliness of the city.
“I tried to avoid the typical tourist traps by exploring different neighborhoods each day”, he tells IGNANT. “I spent hours exploring alleyways, markets, residential areas and main streets to get a feeling for the everyday life of its citizens.” By adopting the gait of Baudelaire’s flaneur, Müller became a passive observer of the city as it fluxed around him. “Trying to focus in this hectic environment was something I had to get used to”, he explains. “This city drains you.” Yet, it was in the streets that surged with life that Müller first perceived the melancholia of the city and its people. “Even though this city is packed with people, busses and hawkers, I started to see a lot of loneliness everywhere I went,” Müller notes, “which became the main topic of this series without me even realizing.”