Around 5 million people ride on Hong Kong’s underground network every day. Yet, to most of us this journey is nothing more than a ride to work, a means to get from A to B, a place packed with people scurrying about mindlessly. The stations are but sites of countless fleeting moments that hardly leave a mark on our minds. In this fast paced commute, do any of us pay attention to our surroundings, the colour of the station walls or the reflected light down a corridor, especially when our destination lies elsewhere and time is ticking?
Christopher Button, however, sees the extraordinary in the trivial. When everyone else calls it a day, when the stations are deprived of its regular flock, he immerses himself in the vastness of Hong Kong’s confined underground channels, and embraces a rare moment of solitude in what is usually hectic. With his Mamiya 7 medium format camera, he transforms the space into a dystopian dimension. Suddenly, we are offered a glimpse into the oddly-quiet side of one of the busiest locations in Hong Kong, one that offers an unusual peacefulness untainted by the hustle. One that is as soothing as it is disturbing. Everything seems familiar and strange at the same time: the endless corridors, the dazzling colours, the hazy mirror reflections… Alas! We are alone, trapped in the labyrinth. We set off into a run, storm down the escalator, sprint around the corner, shoot through the tunnel, desperate for an escape only to find more endlessness ahead. On the way, large screens spewing advertisements and government warnings blind our vision. We are left with no choice but to reach a halt, inhale, and let the surroundings sink in, our ears deafened by piercing silence as we glance around. How many stories hide behind these vibrant walls? What secrets do they hold? But more urgently, how do we get out of here?
Perhaps, this feeling of entrapment is one shared by many of us. This year, the world found itself entangled in more uncertainties than ever. Scenes of this confined and endless underground world created by Christoper would reflect how some of us are feeling trapped in a changed world charged with new restrictions and rules. Slowly, we are learning to embrace uncertainties.
Despite this fast-paced digital era, Chris prefers a measured approach through analog photography. The excitement and anticipation that comes with waiting for his roll of film to deliver surprises, sometimes wonderful accidents, is unparalleled elsewhere. Deeply inspired by cinema, he opts for motion picture cinema film to shoot still images of underground stations. The result, is a cinematic universe that echoes Hiroshi Sugimoto’s way of freezing time and carries hints of Stanley Kubrick; one that offers solace and discomfort at the same time.