Hong Kong’s Finest Instagrammers
Instead of seeing the city as a tourist, why not see where the digital elite go for inspiration and dim sum?
Like any other modern metropolis, Hong Kong is many things to many people: a financial centre, a shopper’s paradise, a culinary wonderland, a buzzing cultural hub. But, with its dramatic architecture, harbour views, neon lights and bustling crowds, it’s also not bad to look at – a fact evidenced by the legions of Hongkongers sharing their Instagram snaps of the city. There are currently more than eight million posts marked #HongKong on the platform, and in Sai Wan, just a short walk from Kennedy Town station, there’s a pier that’s so known for its photogenic qualities that colloquially it’s known as “Instagram pier”.
The best of Hong Kong’s dedicated ’grammers are a unique group with a keen eye for design and details. What separates their shots from the usual tourist snaps is their ability to reinterpret the city, offering new perspectives on its architecture, shedding light on its dark corners and unveiling its local secrets. From @edwardkb’s wistful, hazy take on the city skyline to @hpz319’s ground-up views of teetering skyscrapers (for which he uses special lenses on his phone’s camera), or @vincent_cuk’s humorous shots of his friends, each of the following accounts – among the seven best in the city, in MR PORTER’s humble opinion – offers an insider’s view that you won’t find in any guidebook.
The Graphic Thinker
Hong Kong native Mr Kyle Yu is a graphic designer by day, and his Instagram photos show it, translating the city’s bustling mania into neat compositions featuring sharp geometry and bold splashes of colour. “I guess I’m trying to express minimalism through the high-density scene in HK,” he says. Though he lived for a decade in New Zealand, and has also spent time working in Tokyo, Mr Yu has a particular fondness for his home city – the best thing about it, he says, is “you can experience cityscape and natural landscape within an hour of each other”. He opts for spots such as China Hong Kong City and Victoria Peak, which serve as ideal locations for perfectly balanced Instagrams. Be sure to follow his feed for an artfully curated account of its many hidden details, executed with a designer-ly taste and precision.
Favourite dining spot: “Cheung Fat Noodles in Sham Shui Po – traditional hand-pulled noodles to slurp up.”
Favourite photo opp: “Hong Kong Cultural Centre.”
Mr Shu Zhen, known on Instagram as “Vincent”, is a Shanghai transplant currently studying at City University of Hong Kong. In his Instagram feed he builds upon the platform’s standard fodder – views, sunsets, breakfasts – by incorporating his friends into artfully posed images. Whether it’s a band-photo-like shot of three girls in a forest, or a group of pals recreating the evolution of man by crouching at various heights, or one of his series of #jumpstagram posts (in which a figure is pictured mid-leap, hovering in midair), Mr Zhen is all about intrigue. “I think a good photo should give people a feeling of reading a story and give them an inspiration or sense of lifestyle,” he says. What does he like so much about Hong Kong? He came for the cultural diversity, but stayed for the “mouthwatering” food – this much is also clear from the appetising shots of #foodporn that also pepper his feed.
Favourite dining spot: “Aqua – gorgeous food and a gorgeous view.”
Favourite photo opp: “Instagram pier in Sai Wan.”
The Architecture Aficionado
London-born Mr Edward Barnieh moved to Hong Kong in 2013 to work for Cartoon Network Asia Pacific, settling in one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city, Wan Chai. His university grounding in the history of art and architecture helps explain his distinctive photos, which highlight the skylines and structural silhouettes that make Hong Kong so visually striking. While many complain about the city’s notoriously polluted skies, Mr Barnieh finds them to be something of a photographic asset – with the right light, he says, you can get some pretty stellar photos. See what he means by scrolling through his feed, full of glimmering lens flares and the kind of sunsets you can only see in Hong Kong.
Favourite dining spot: “Din Tai Fung for Taiwanese dim sum.”
Favourite photo opp: “The Royal Pacific Hotel in Kowloon.”
The Shadow Master
An 18-year-old student at the Hong Kong Design Institute, Mr Jack Fung is one of the more youthful participants in the Hong Kong Instagram scene. Mr Fung grew up in Hong Kong, and now resides in the New Territories, neatly nestled against the border of mainland China. Although in Hong Kong, with its cramped skyscrapers and seven million inhabitants, Mr Fung says, the living conditions might not be ideal, he also attests that “the overcrowding is part of what makes this city so beautiful”. In his intriguing, moody shots, he plays with shadows and repetition, capturing contrasts of light and shade across the city’s urban spaces and human silhouettes against the city’s architectural landscape. He also seems to have a thing for Hong Kong’s tunnels, which have never looked better than on his feed.
Favourite dining spot: “Australia Dairy Company, Jordan, Hong Kong.”
Favourite photo opp: “Sheung Wan.”
The Worm’s Eye View
Hong Kong-born Mr Harold Lee owns two sports shops, one in Kowloon and one on Hong Kong Island, which he uses as a base of operations from which to dash out to capture the wonders of the city. A somewhat exacting mobile photographer, Mr Lee works with a series of lenses to maximise the quality of his images and transcend the limitations of his handset. “I use Moment lenses to take my photos further,” says Mr Lee, “shooting landscapes with the Moment Wide and zooming in with the Moment Tele.” The effect of such hardware is pretty emphatic: Mr Lee’s photos have a considered, cinematic look, almost indistinguishable from SLR shots. His most recognisable stock-in-trade is rather dizzying shots of tall buildings, shot from directly beneath and up into infinity. You might have seen one of them – an image of the Wah Fu estate in Hong Kong’s Southern District – in Apple’s recent Shot on iPhone 6 world gallery. Follow his account for more of this billboard-grade stuff.
Favourite dining spot: “Old-style food halls such as Sing Heung Yuen at Mee Lun Street, Central – be sure to order the beef noodles in tomato soup and HK-style milk tea.”
Favourite photo opp: “Victoria Harbour at Tsim Sha Tsui.”
THE INTREPID EXPLORER
Indian-born, British-schooled, now Kowloon Bay-based Mr Kay Kulkarni works as a social media manager at Sinclair Communications, a boutique PR agency. His particular Insta-talent, he says, is finding “the unusual places that locals might overlook”, a fact that’s proven by his intriguing photographs of hidden aspects of well-known locales such as the Lai Tak Tsuen housing estate on Hong Kong Island or Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon. His favourite thing about Hong Kong is that “you can visit a location multiple times and be guaranteed that you’ll find something to capture differently each time”. His feed – full of surprises at every turn and packed with perfectly composed, quirky images of his Hong Kong travels and the people he meets on them – proves this point nicely.
Favourite dining spot: “Chachawan – the som tum salad is close to, if not better than, anything you’ll find in Thailand.”
Favourite photo opp: “Victoria Peak.”
The Bird’s Eye View
“Living in Hong Kong, where we have the most skyscrapers in the world, rooftopping is definitely the best way to capture the city,” says Mr Daniel Lau, a British-born “explorer-photographer” who seems to spend a lot of time scaling the sides of buildings, if his death-defying Instagram feed is anything to go by. Yes, if you’re afraid of heights, point your browser in another direction – Mr Lau’s feed is almost exclusively shot from hundreds of feet above sea level, featuring him and his friends dangling worryingly above Hong Kong from a series of tall, tall buildings, leaning off ledges, scampering on crane arms and generally acting in an irresponsible – but amazing – fashion. Follow, if you are brave enough: viewing is highly – and we mean highly – recommended.
Favourite dining spot: “Anywhere with pizza.”
Favourite photo opp: “Whatever is new and fresh – it changes every day!”