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!