The Imaginary City

December 1st, 2013, 5am

Have you been here before?

I feel like I have. It’s the imaginary city, the city that steps out of iconic imagery. It is the city that only exists in that moment. Yet, it is the city that everyone tries to find. Travelling, wandering, seeking that imaginary illumination so we can say: ‘Yeah, I got that shot; here it is.’

Hong Kong’s iconography is limited: The setting sun over the water with the lost-in-time Junkboat, towers silhouetted in the background. An appealing, disingenuous image – a vestigial boat used for nothing more than creating iconic images for tourists, a setting sun clear only because the pollution took a holiday. This is the imaginary city.

How is it that a city of such rich diversity and potential is saddled with iconography that hardly represents what it is? The dirty streets and country parks can’t seem to compete. The glass canyons and compressed life seem to have little say as we all line up to get that one shot. The imaginary city tempts us and pulls on our hearts: ‘I just gotta get that shot.’

Maybe as the city changes, so too will the imagery. Or maybe we will continue to line up for it and chase the imaginary city in circles, never quite catching it and never quite seeing that it’s just a shadow of the city surrounding us.

David Wade, Samuel, Christine, Peter and 6 others said thanks.

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Ian Babbitt

Teacher and photographer in Hong Kong looking for the next step

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