Jun 30, 2021
Pascal is a Swiss-Italian photographer who has recently worked on two different series about Hong Kong. In his second piece, Pascal focuses his attention on the quasi-extinct neon signs that characterised this city in the past century, using Polaroid Type 100 film as a medium that has also almost disappeared. In this way, these minimal takes are now a historical archive that laid on their black background seem to float also in time.
am - First of all thank you very much for your contribution to our project. Can you please introduce yourself for us?
PG - I am a self-taught Italian and Swiss filmmaker and photographer. At the moment I am preparing my new exhibition 'Hong Kong Typology' in the 'Galerie Ruines', Geneva. I am going to present for the first time together the Polaroids of my 2 works and books on Hong Kong, its architecture (Hong Kong, 2018) and its neon signs (Hong Kong Neon, 2021). Also a limited box edition of 50 copies containing the 2 books will be release on June 23rd.
I am also finishing a documentary about the elderly in Hong Kong that are alone, sometimes abandoned by their families, and with insufficient retirement money to cover their vital needs like rent, food or medical expenses. The state totally abandoned the aging population, does not help them or not enough. To meet their needs, they collect paper, cardboard, sagex or aluminum cans in order to sell them per kilo at a derisory price. These old people, forgotten by all, are named 'the Scavengers'.
am - What is “Hong Kong Neon” about?
PG - It is a project that I made from 2012 until the end of 2019 about the famous and glamorous neon signs of Hong Kong. These emblematic neon lights, together with Hong Kong’s atypical architecture, create a unique atmosphere, sometimes mysterious, dreamlike and poetic. Hong Kong’s neon signs have been part of the city’s visual and cultural identity for decades, and they charm both Hong Kongers and tourists.
Unfortunately in the last 15 years, more than 90% of the neon signs of the city have disappeared for so called security and economy saving reasons, but also for political reasons, due to the increasingly authoritarian domination of Beijing on the territory.
This project is a tribute to this visual heritage and to the people who created and shaped these neon signs as well as the city of Hong Kong, whose identity is slowly crumbling.
Neon lights are indeed like a garment of light, a dazzling showcase, a reflection of a capitalist society, one that conceals a completely different reality. In their shadow lies a great social misery, that is distressing to say the least.
I made this photographic work using a format that, like neon, is also disappearing, the 'Type 100 instant photography' from Polaroid. Unfortunately the majority of these documented neon signs no longer exist. This book completes my second photographic work on the fascinating city of Hong Kong. The first book is about the unique architecture of the city.
am - Since you’ve been working on Hong Kong projects before, we’d like to know how did your interest in this city start?
PG - I started falling in love with Hong Kong and the neon signs watching the Wong Kar Wai films, 'In the Mood for Love' and 'Chucking Express'.
I really like these particular and so beautiful old buildings which are a mix of English and Hong Kong influences. And I like those incredible and so unique towers in the city.
This is why I started in 2012 - every year during one month - shooting the architecture of Hong Kong in B&W Polaroid during the day, switching to color Polaroid at night to photograph the neon signs.
am - Who are your favourite photographers / artists?
PG - Wong Kar Wai, Christopher Doyle, David Lynch, Ai Weiwei, Hilla and Bernd Becher, Rinko Kawauchi, Sigur Ros and many others.
am - What is your favourite photo book?
PG - I have so many that I can't choose one.
am - Thank you very much for your time and your contribution to analog magazine.
PG - Thank you for your interest in my work.