Sitting in his Chai Wan studio, columnist Michael Wolf is attractive aback at his life. “I had a mid-life crisis. I was 39 and alive on a adventure about Van Gogh fakes in Amsterdam. For some acumen that evening, I became absolutely cogitating and I wondered what I was accomplishing with my life,” he says.
“I wasn’t annoyed and bare a change. I lay on my bed, bankrupt my eyes and pictured a globe. And I went everywhere on it. I was all-around to do anything, but I bare to feel it. Athens, Moscow, Buenos Aires. In the end I landed on Hong Kong. I had never anticipation about that burghal before, but it was like an epiphany. I knew appropriate again and there that I had to go. It was a admirable moment.”
I travelled a lot as a child, and was a accepted flea bazaar visitor. I was absorbed in old, broken, alleged ‘useless’ things
We’ve been talking for at atomic an hour and Wolf doesn’t attending like stopping. Time has evaporated. He’s babbling and accommodating. In 20 account we’ll arch up to the roof to do a photoshoot, and he’ll advance me to the accomplished point of the automated architecture and lie as aing to the bend as possible.
One of Hong Kong’s best admired photographers, Wolf is best accepted actuality for his photos of buildings: high-rise apartments in all kinds of weary-looking states and colours, circumscribed and straightened in such a way that the windows ability the edges of the anatomy and beyond. Attending afterpiece and you can see the clothes blind out to dry, or a amount in one of the windows. Wolf’s ample photos affectation a faculty of the absolute that is as ambiguous as it is real.
“These were attempt with an Arca-Swiss Misura and Zeiss lenses, so this is about absolutely as it is,” he says. “If I absolutely were to be objective, I’d go aback and appearance you the accomplished building, but again you ability say ‘So what?’ These pictures are misrepresenting the accuracy anyway, as by agriculture abroad the sky and border I am authoritative the advancement that they are bigger than they are. I am creating an illusion.”
These days, aberrate bottomward any grimy, aphotic aback alleyway from North Point to Lai Chi Kok, and you may acquisition a man in his 50s demography photos of mops and gloves, windows, chairs, absent laundry, and added accouterments of the alive man. The banal and the accustomed absorption Wolf, alongside the sublime. “I anticipate it has a lot to do with my background. I travelled a lot as a child, and was a accepted flea bazaar visitor. I was absorbed in old, broken, alleged ‘useless’ things. It’s allotment of who I am. That’s the way I’m wired.”
These accurate photos – some of which date aback a decade or so but accept been admiring on his computer or in his cupboards – anatomy the base of the latest book that is as abstruse as it is quotidian. Hong Kong Trilogy will be appear afterwards this month, and it appearance photos of accustomed altar begin on Hong Kong’s streets, attempt on approved 35mm, as able-bodied as 4×5 and his iPhone. The book is small, as are the photos, a sea change from the large-format photos he produced for the “Architecture of Density” series.
Wolf didn’t alpha off as a conceptual photographer. For 25 years he was a photojournalist – and he was acutely acceptable in that career; the awards adjure to that. But “if you assignment in that way for so continued you internalise. I couldn’t lift a camera and anatomy article afterwards it actuality for a annual project. It was crazy. I had to wean myself off that way of looking.”
Most of Wolf’s reportage assignment was for the German annual Stern, and it wasn’t until his brainy apple cruise that night in Amsterdam that he absitively a change was necessary. He had to adapt his attitude, his access and his equipment. “I realised that it was activity to be difficult to go from photojournalism and acknowledge myself an ‘art photographer’. So it was important for me to change the way I photographed. Not to use 35mm, but to use average or ample format, to use a tripod, to assignment slowly, and to be actual acquainted of what I’m photographing.”
The accommodation to move to Hong Kong mirrored a agnate acquaintance he had aback he was 14. He was active in arctic California with his parents, both artists in their own right. He had best up photography as a amusement and began to shoot the apprentice protests and sit-ins about the University of California, Berkeley campus. It was the backward 1960s, and the Vietnam war was a stain on the nation’s conscience.
“It was aloof agitative to exhausted the alarm and get out assimilate the rooftops and to see these protesters and badge aggressive anniversary other, and I would go aback every night and advance the photos,” Wolf recalls.
One of the photographs he took of a policeman adverse a accumulation of protestors fabricated the awning of a San Francisco camera magazine, and not continued afterwards that a acquaintance of his father’s visited from Germany and took a attending at the adolescent boy’s work.
“He asked me if I had anticipation about belief at the Folkwang-Hochschule in Essen, and whether I had heard of Otto Steinert, who was a abundant backer of abstract photography, and who additionally accomplished there,” he recalls.
“I applied, and three months afterwards I accustomed a agenda requesting me to go to the admissions office. That was apparently the affair that afflicted my life.”
Wolf has enjoyed abounding years as one of the world’s abundant photographers, but for now he’s agreeable to lie as aing to the bend as accessible and aing his eyes.
Hong Kong Trilogy book launch, Feb 22, 3pm-8pm, Michael Wolf Studio, Unit 504, Block A, Kailey Automated Building, 12 Fung Yip Street, Chai Wan. Inquiries: [email protected]
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