Christopher Domakis's Hutong Series

Christopher Domakis's Hutong Series

Earlier this week my attention was caught by the compelling work of Christopher Domakis in Hutong, the areas of  Beijing that are still surrounded by dated architecture and almost seem to be frozen a few decades in the past. I wanted to know more, so I caught up with Chris for some info on the series and his inspiration for it.








 After being and traveling in China back in 2011 I was so fascinated by this country that I decided to come back as soon as possible. I already had a project in my mind and did actually start shooting at that time but I was more concentrated in finding locations and traveling. Maybe back than I was more of a tourist as a photographer. So at the beginning of 2013 the time was right to begin or to complete the series "microcosm" which you'll find on my website as well. It's about the growing suburbs of urban areas like Shanghai, Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong and so on. The newly developing housing areas around the mega-cities. China is trying to relocate people from the countryside into the cities which means there's a need for residential areas and investments.

So while researching, traveling to the locations and waiting for the perfect light I stopped by in Beijing and stayed again in an old Hutong district north-east of Beijing. I already knew this area from my trip before and was again totally fascinated by this little universe inside the capital. At daytime and at night it felt so different to the loud, fast and polluted world "outside" of the Hutong. So I decided to skip my project for a week just to capture that feeling with my camera. I started at daytime and soon recognized that this cold, dark, mystique feeling is even stronger at night. Every day at 8 pm I grabbed my equipment and walked as many narrow streets as possible...mostly until midnight. I only stopped at places where you could see or hear people living their daily life like going to their hairdresser, fixing their motorbike or meeting at a restaurant. This one special spot inside total darkness where's life and some illumination. But at the same time it had to be a location where exactly this life I was talking about before felt unrealistic.

I wanted to share the feeling of isolation....a moment in a winter night and a life in a parallel universe so close to modern China that you wouldn't expect this to be an urban area in the very centre of Beijing...the capital of the soon-to-be most powerful country in the world. Daily life in a village inside a mega-city. The discrepancy in these pictures get clearer if you imagine yourself always just five minutes away from modern China and if you realize that these historic important residential areas shrink very fast. Every new motorway or new huge residential area, so called gated communities, are swallowing more and more of these unique places.


For more information and a the complete series, check out the gallery on Behance!

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HuTong is the name of the alleyways in beijing, not a village or town. they are the old structure of the city inside the old city walls that used to surround the city. they are a maze of narrow streets and are literally in the heart of the city, you can walk out one and find yourself in front of a 6 lane road. most of them have been demolished, but are being rebuilt new, with new and more modern infrastructure. however the new parts are kind of sterile, they lack the charm of the old stuff. if you go to beijing you can see the difference if you walk around QianMen district south of TianAnMen square.

I lived in beijing from 2004-2009 and used to live in the HuTong. very cold in winter and only public toilets....

Hutong is not a city near Beijing, it is the name given to the old neighborhoods of the city that have kept the "traditional housings".

I feel there are going to be a lot of comments from people who have lived in Beijing correcting the use of the word hutong in this piece. Hutong is not a place outside a city, but rather a name for the traditional winding alleyways inside the now destroyed city wall. In all reality, if he was north east of Beijing, he wasn't even technically in a hutong, rather just a poorer area that resembles one. It is a common misconception that downtown Beijing is loud and modern and one needs to "get away" sometimes. But truthfully over 70% of the downtown area are quiet hutong alleys where the kind of daily life in these photos is common place. I should know, I've lived in one for the last 5 years.

c'mon guys: sorry for misinterpreting the use of "north-east of"...I'm German and may use some phrases incorrectly....sorry for that. What I meant was inside the north-eastern part of the city, where I stayed in the Hutongs as well....INSIDE THE CITY! It's quite interesting to see, that nobody cares about the pictures itself...instead everybody is trying to distinguish oneself with some bullshit without even trying to read to the end. It's in the description...twice, that I've been insight Beijing...not in a Village called Hutong, outside of the capital??? Where did you guys even get this from? Cheers!