The illuminated signs hanging from buildings are a distinctive feature of the Hong Kong cityscape, although neon, once very common, has since become less common due to technological developments, but also due to tightening of safety regulations for signs which make them more expensive to maintain. Tobacco adverts are no longer allowed, and I had a sense that I was documenting something that would likely be disappearing when I took this photo.
This image was used on the invitation card of my exhibition 'Hong Kong Nocturne', held at the Goethe Institute, Hong Kong, in 2002. Someone who saw that invitation card wrote a letter to the South China Morning Post complaining that it was a collage of advertising signs promoting smoking. There were two mistakes in the argument presented since the image is not a collage (even if it might look like one), and it confuses the content of the image with the perspective of the image itself (and its maker). To document the shocking prevalence of tobacco advertising in the city is not to promote that practice but to highlight it for discussion, and the dangers of smoking are made clear by the compulsory health warnings prominent in the image.
Compare to a daytime image of the same location taken on 13 May 1996.
Due to the strong contrasts of light and dark in this monochrome photo the image of the moon in one of the illuminated signs seems almost as if it were the actual moon in the sky. In printing this image from the negative I deliberately decided to create strong blacks in the image, thus making the boundaries of objects within the image less prominent. This helped to strengthen a sense of two-dimensional design, blurring distinctions between foreground and depth to some extent. Because the edge of the illuminated sign on which it is found is less distinct as a result of this printing decision, the moon partially floats free, as it were.
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