24 year old street photographer from Vancouver Canada, Garrett Riffal now lives and works in Hong Kong. As a foreigner, Riffal has taken it upon himself to document this ever changing city and its wide range of residents.
What approach do you take with your photography or what does photography mean to you?
When it comes to photography and my life I tend to ‘go big or go home’. You can see this in my photos. I constantly try to shoot whatever or who ever is around me even if I am nervous or uncomfortable. If I want to take a photo but then decide not to I feel defeated because technically there is no reason why you can’t if you’re in public.
Compared to many other street photographers I tend to shoot in a close and aggressive manner. There are people who criticize this style as being unethical however I believe it is the most honest form of street photography. People are obviously aware of me and I’m not trying to hide anything.
Please describe the background for this series, where were these taken, what were your objectives?
These photos are all taken on Hong Kong Island or on the Kowloon side. I started this project to try to document the city and its people. The only constant in Hong Kong is change. Over a hundred new people settle in the city every day and many also leave it either through death or emigration. I decided that during my time here I’d try to document a small slice of the 7 million people that live in Hong Kong before they are gone.
The particular style you used for these images are ‘up-close and personal’, with facial expressions at the forefront. Is this something you like to explore?
I shoot close because I believe it results in a better image. Most often closer images are more dramatic and capture more detail. When shooting I’m not looking for a reaction or funny expression. I try to be as quick as I can to not change the look of the subject. Of course this is not always possible.
Tell us about Hong Kong itself, how was your experience?
I originally came to Hong Kong because I knew they had a strong film shooter community and the fact that it’s like the New York of Asia. It is a great place for tourism, photography, food and more. Unfortunately if you live in Hong Kong you slowly begin to see the darker side. For every sparkling office building you see there are thousands of workers enduring the worlds longest average working hours. All the picturesque residential sky scrapers you see are filled with thousands of people paying the highest rent in the world and subsequently living in the smallest spaces. I could go on all day about overcrowding, education, inequality etc but to sum Hong Kong up it’s great for tourism not great for living. The funny thing is that I was told this before I moved here.
Which equipment did you use for this project?
In addition to the Leica body, lens and finder I use a coiled M3 PC to hot shoe cable from paramount cords. On the end of the cord is a made in Japan Vivitar 283. I prefer the made in Japan version as it has a higher sync voltage of 170. Modern low voltage flashes are not as reliable with this setup.
Lastly, is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers?
Shoot whatever you like, the way you like, for whatever reason you like. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do.
To know more about Garrett Riffal, please visit his official website.