In our People Profiles Arts Series, we meet people from Hong Kong’s arts scene and learn about their backgrounds, motivations and current projects. In this instalment, we take a peek behind the lens with landscape and documentary photographer LAURENCE LAI, whose striking images have attracted the attention of everyone from hoteliers to home renovators.
HK in the Frame
Tell us a bit about your background.
I’m 49 and was born and grew up in Hong Kong. I started taking pictures in the early 1990s. I mainly work on street documentary and landscape photos in Hong Kong, mainland China and other Asian countries.
Around 23 years ago, I went to Sydney, Australia, and saw some photo galleries and photographers who were selling local landscape prints and frames, and doing it very nicely. I thought it could be a good idea to start a similar business in Hong Kong. So I began selling images of the city in a Sunday market – that was in 2000.
What started your interest in photography?
What’s your favourite area of Hong Kong to photograph?
Sham Shui Po.
Do you have a favourite image?
I like my collection of photos from the 1990s of planes flying in and out of the old Kai Tak Airport.
Any particular challenges you face taking photos in Hong Kong?
The summer here is too hot – and too humid! Carrying all my camera gear and hiking around with it is hard work. In addition to your photography, you also paint; tell us a more about that. I’ve been photographing Hong Kong for many years – since the early 1990s. I was feeling bored with it at times. I met a sketcher who was sketching in front of my gallery at Pier 7. I asked him a few questions about how to sketch, and before long I started sketching with him. I’ve been doing that almost every week since 2017.
Later, I founded a group named the Hong Kong Heritage Sketchers. We organise activities every month – we currently have around 140 active members.
Outside of work, what are your hobbies in Hong Kong?
I love cooking. I like to go to the different wet markets looking for fresh seafood. I also opened a Chinese dim sum restaurant at the Peak Galleria; it was there from 2009 to 2012.
Any photography tips for readers?
Simple is best; less is more!
Tools of the trade
Like most photographers, Laurence has multiple cameras that he uses for different purposes. This is his current arsenal!
- Hasselblad 500cm (Film)
- Pentax 67 (Film)
- Leica M6 (Film)
- Nikon FM2, F3, F5 (Film)
- Nikon D3/4/5 (Digital)
- Large format camera: Linhof 4×5 / Toyo 8×10
View Laurence’s prints at Shop L1, Pier 7, Central Pier, Star Ferry, or online at laurencelaigallery.com.
This article first appeared in the Autumn 2021 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.
See more in our people series in our Living in Hong Kong section