Hong Kong: “City of Dreams”

Jonathan Van Smit lives in Hong Kong and captures documentary-style street photography between the hours of 11pm and 4am. He’s one of the most open and interesting guys I’ve ever met: the kind of guy that makes you want to put the mic away and be mates. His gritty, black and white captures are almost always shot from-the-hip and tell a story of Hong Kong’s underbelly.

Like all photography, Jonathan’s photos are intended to tell a particular story. Of course, the viewer’s interpretation can be quite different as Nigel Christian explains:

“I wouldn’t want to attribute a politics to van Smit’s images without hesitation because I suspect that this is not a message the photographer consciously intends to make. However, one way of understanding his work, and I emphasise this is just one way, my own personal way, is to say that if cityscape photographers show us the awesome constructive power of capitalism, street photographers like van Smit (and I’ve seen very few like him) show us some of the terrifying social power that capitalism has over the multitudes who live in the shadows of all those beautiful, familiar, towers.  Not just in Hong Kong, but everywhere in this city called Earth.”

Whatever you take from Jonathan’s images, you’ll appreciate the skill in capturing these often very private moments and intimate environments in difficult light and sometimes hair-trigger personalities. It occurred to me, Smit’s work a bit like war photography: trying to blend in, going where few others would dare venture and constructing story that will ultimately possess some political and social commentary, regardless of the photographer’s intentions.

I recorded a conversation with Jonathan earlier this year and hope to post it soon. In the meantime, please enjoy this curation of his work.