Long time no see!

Easter holidays notwithstanding, it’s time to get back into the swing of things.

It’s only been a few weeks since I got back, but its like it never happened. So a v brief recap on a wet, (relatively) cold trip to Hong Kong before getting back to work matters.

Star Ferry, Hong KongThe historic Star Ferry still remains as an iconic trip down memory lane.

Wong Kar Wai, Avenue of Stars, Hong KongWong Kar Wai’s plaque on the Avenue of Stars – director of one of my favourite HK movies, In The Mood For Love.

Louis Vuitton, Hong KongHong Kong ain’t nothing without the big brand shopping…

I’m a wedding photographer, get me out of here

I’m going to wrap up last month’s trip to Hong Kong with just an observation about the state of wedding photography there. All I can say is that there must be a lot of it about. Sure, the Chinese tend to go in for big, elaborate wedding receptions, but I just couldn’t get my head around all the pre- and post-nuptual photography going on around the city.

Pretty much every day, day or night I would notice some crew out snapping away in sometimes the most random of locations. Sure, atmospheric street scenes can have their charm, somewhere like Soho or Sheung Wan, but just next to some billboards in Central?!

Noodle love

Shugetsu Ramen, 5 Gough Street, Sheung WanThere’s always a warm glow of satisfaction from stumbling on a new ‘find’. Not necessarily breaking undiscovered ground, but just following your own instincts. Shugetsu Ramen at 5 Gough Street was somewhere that I’d noticed a couple of times when photographing around Sheung Wan. Although it had only been open a few weeks there was a real buzz about the place and always crowded as it’s only open for lunch. Although I’d tried to get in a couple of times, I finally managed on a late lunch break from a shoot nearby. Delicious…

Butao Ramen, 11–12, Wo On Lane, CentralButao Ramen (above) at 11–12 Wo On Lane, Lan Kwai Fong was somewhere I just never managed to get in. Hong Kongers have a strange penchant for forming a queue and pretty much any time of day, there was a line opposite this tiny ramen bar. It’s got a real cult following and even on Saturday morning (when most people are either working or nursing the night before), when I passed by on the way to a shoot there was already a major queue waiting for it to open up.

Mak's Noodle, 77 Wellington Street, CentralMak's Noodle, 77 Wellington Street, CentralEven though Hong Kong has long been enthralled by Japanorama (Sogo, Hello Kitty, etc) and ramen is the thing for the kids (if not McD’s or KFC), for me, no visit to HK is complete without at least a couple of bowls of won ton mein from Mak’s Noodles on Wellington Street. It’s a real establishment, unpreposessing in its old school charm and still managing to pull in a loyal following despite the long queues outside the hot new Vietnamese across the road. Even though the bowls may be some of the smallest you’ll ever see, after a few of those babies, I’m a very happy man…

The whole ramen thing reminds me of one of my favourite movies, Juzo Itami’s Tampopo. The last time I was working in Tokyo, I caught a TV news story about a New Yorker, Ivan Orkin who had moved to Tokyo to learn the whole ramen craft locally and finally set up his own noodle shop, Ivan Ramen just outside the city. Itadakimas!

Cafe culture

Mido Cafe, Temple Street, Hong KongMido Cafe, Temple Street, Hong KongFrench toast, Mido Cafe, Temple Street, Hong KongMido Cafe, Temple Street, Hong KongSo, suddenly back to Hong Kong for a catch-up round.

After Cafe Goldfinch in Causeway Bay, next stop on the nostalgia tour was Mido Cafe in Yau Ma Tei. Dating back to the Sixties, it feels like a complete time warp with the original tile detailing and boothed interior. Upstairs gives you a good view of the street below where the night market kicks off after it gets dark.

The great thing about Mido is that it’s unashamedly unreconstructed and slightly shabby around the edges. Nice as Cafe Goldfinch was, I found it all a bit too self-knowing what with all the signed posters and menu references to ITMFL.

The menu is all standard Sixties Canto-Western fair, including their famous French toast (pictured) complete with a drizzle of condensed milk. In a way, it’s a refreshing antidote to the glut of Starbucks, Pacific Coffee and designer barista bars that have boomed in the last few years.

In the mood for love

Cafe de Goldfinch, Causeway BayCafe de Goldfinch, Causeway BayThe other night I headed over to Causeway Bay to combine dinner with a movie pilgrimage at Cafe de Goldfinch on Lan Fong Road. It’s where a key scene from Wong Kai-Wai’s masterpiece In The Mood For Love was filmed.

The movie may not be everyone’s cup of tea but, for those that do like it, you’ve only got to read the comments on IMDB to see why. I find it hauntingly evocative of Sixties Hong Kong (not that I’m old enough to remember) and the standout for me is the cinematography and the colour palette of the whole film.

The cinematographer was Christopher Doyle, who I once sat across the aisle from on a flight from London to Hong Kong just after he’d picked up a special award at Cannes with Gus Van Sant for Paranoid Park. It was a bit nerdy recognising him and I admit that it’s the only time that I’ve ever approached someone well known and asked ‘Are you “so and so”, I love your work.’ He was actually surprised that anyone recognised him, but was gracious enough to chat his movie and photography work.

I won’t turn this into a film review, but check out fans’ favourite clips on YouTube. As well as the gorgeous cinematography, the use of music and sound is incredible as well. Do yourself a favour and watch it, now…

Just for the record I had borscht, followed by pepper steak (medium rare), finished off with mango sundae and washed down with iced lemon tea. The crowd was a mixture of old school and young hipster couples. It all seemed strangely at odds with the pimped people carriers and Bentleys parked outside waiting for their owners who were probably buying out Lee Gardens’s stock of the Chinese ‘Fantastic Four’ – LV, Chanel, Dior, Gucci.

Art in the city

Annie Leibowitz at Sundaram Tagore Hong Kong'99 Cents', Andreas Gursky at Gagosian Gallery Hong KongThurs 17 May marks the start of ARTHK 12, so there’s plenty of artsy stuff going on in town at the moment. If your interest is photographic there there are a couple of great ‘small-but-perfectly-formed’ shows on at the moment, both solo debuts in Hong Kong.

Last week I dropped into the Annie Leibowitz exhibition showing at Sundaram Tagore on Hollywood Road. There are some great classics there from her back catalogue including Andy Warhol, Brad Pitt and the iconic pregnant nude of Demi Moore. That gallery has a great track record. When I was last in Hong Kong they had a wonderful Edward Burtynsky show on.

At lunchtime today, in between shooting at Amber restaurant, I managed to drop into the new Gagosian in the Pedder Building which is showing Andreas Gursky. Judging by the glammed up queues on Pedder Street last night, the opening party must have been a hot ticket this week. On first sight, I was a bit underwhelmed by his recent Bangkok works but I was really cheered up at seeing his iconic 99 Cents II dyptich. Up close and personal, I just find it amazingly immersive and mesmerising. And to think that it was shot way back in the age of proper film. Now if only I had the money, maybe it’s cheaper than Rhine II

Guilty pleasure

Pens, Hong KongA random guilty pleasure is sniffing around stationery shops when I’m abroad on a trip.

Even though I hardly ever write a letter or card, save for a scribble on the back of an envelope or a quick shopping list, there’s nothing nicer than the thrill of the chase of finding a great new pen. And I’m not talking about something all snobby and elitist like some monster-sized Mont Blanc – just a great everyday ballpoint/rollerball.

Pretty much every stationery store in Hong Kong has a massive selection of everyday pens. The photo above was taken in a shop in Wan Chai and part of what must have been a three or four metre display. Heaven…

Even in this age of touchscreen smartphones and laptops there’s just something nice about a good pen. It reminds me of a press ad that Wieden + Kennedy produced for Honda that was just a cut out still life of a banana.

The genius of the copy was how engaging and arresting the whole concept was. I won’t bore you, but the first few lines run, ‘Have you ever written on a banana in biro? Its crazy but it works like a dream. You wish all writing could be this way. It flows. It’s smooth. It’s sensual.’

Just google the ad for the photo and rest of the copy. It ran years ago and I still remember it. Maybe it was great advertising, maybe I’m just a pen nerd…