Honest photography series examines Hong Kong’s housing crisis

The latest photography project by Derek Man, Close to Home,
investigates the ever-growing housing crisis in Hong Kong.

At once a basic human need and private-state imperative, the
housing issue is one that affects people in Hong Kong and the
world over. Having lived in the UK for 12 years, the work can
be viewed from the perspective of an expatriate returning to
his homeland to record how rapidly Hong Kong is changing.

From a family of four living in one room, to middle aged men
residing in ‘coffin homes’ no bigger than a closet, the lack of
affordable housing is forcing Hong Kong’s residents to live in
substandard environments. While the government estimates some
200,000 people live in these ‘coffin homes’; research by
Society for Community Organisation (SoCO) suggests the number
could be much higher.

Alongside the underpriviliged, the work also considers the
other extreme end of the spectrum, as well as what lies
in-between. By showing the up-and-coming private estates, the
oldest and newest social housing, estate agents congregating in
shopping malls desperately selling up land, showrooms
displaying the perfect flat, and the ultra wealthy homes, the
project weaves together a vision of a social future that is
recognisable globally.

Derek explains: “I’ve always had a vague idea of the disparity
in living standards in Hong Kong however, I did not know the
full extent until I met SoCO and saw it first
hand. Families of four sharing one room and grown men living in
what is practically a cupboard surrounded by everything they

 “I’d heard stories from my father and his brother about
growing up in a tiny flat when they were kids, practically a
shed, but seeing that they still exist 40 years later is
shocking. What’s even more striking is that these homes aren’t
out in the suburbs or edges of the town, they are in huge areas
of wealth and commerce, for example by Time Square opposite the
Tiffany’s shop or up the winding staircases of Mong Kok, next
to Langham Place.

 “One lesson I’ve really taken away from this project is that
it is not just about Hong Kong – a lack of safe, reasonably
priced housing is a global issue that is not exclusive to this
city. I hope this work will hold up a mirror to other places,
encouraging discourse on potential solutions.”

The project was commissioned by Open Eye Gallery as part of the
Shifts: Global exhibition
, to coincide with Look/17
Liverpool International Photography Festival this month.

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