When first see Michael Wolf’s photographs, you will be attracted by the beauty of architectural colors. And just at the second sight, these works will bring your thoughts to go further to think more about the city we live and normal people around us. That’s the magic lens of Michael Wolf.
Born in Germany, Wolf worked as a former photojournalist in Europe and the US. In 1994, he moved to Hong Kong, a second home that witnessed the birth of his most important works.
Wolf remembered it was April 2003, the period that SARS attacked Hong Kong and took away many lives.
“And I suddenly realized oh my God, I’ve lived in Hong Kong for nine years, and I’ve never photographed the city. I felt so guilty. Living in this incredible megacity I’ve never photographed it, because that I am always busy with my job, and then I come back to Hong Kong and edit it and then go on to the next job.” Said Wolf in a video interview.
So he had since turned his attention to the unheeded qualities of this metropolis. In his own words, it was a wonderful time to photograph this city. He went out every morning at 6, strolled in the city until 6 p.m., and then developed films in his darkroom. He documented the trace of people’s living and turned the dynamic reality into static images, during which he had gradually developed his own vision of Hong Kong.
Architecture of Density, Wolf’s most well-known work, came into being at that period. Looking at these photographs, you will find that they all have a certain stylistic device. You can neither see the horizon nor the sky. These monstrous and immense buildings with never-ending repetitions of patterns just give you an illusion that you have no idea how big the building actually is.
“I suddenly have created a metaphor for megacities,” Wolf explained. “When you look at them, you would see little pieces of clothes and things on the windows, and you would imagine these hundreds of thousands of windows and behind every window, there is a family or human being and how do they live.”
It was definite that Wolf had a deep affinity for Hong Kong, and meanwhile, Hong Kong was his muse to keep inspiring him in creation.
In his another book Informal Solutions, you can find Wolf’s circumspective observations of Hong Kong’s back alleys. Before that, he had never gone into the back alley in other cities around the world, because back alleys mean danger and crime, like robbery and drug. But Hong Kong changed his tune.
“It was basically an area where the workers, the common people stored their tools. And all the kitchens had exits to the back so people would wash vegetables or the women with cars would park their cars there. For me, the back alleys became my favorite way of walking through Hong Kong.”
The more Wolf walked, the more he discovered. Chairs, sofas, gloves, umbrellas, hangers and covered cars. Even different ways to drying mops left him a deep impression. Wolf believed it would be more meaningful to record things rather than people, as the things they used and the traces they left revealed much more about people in the back alleys. Impelled by this, he began to collect some interesting things and then hold exhibitions to showcase and share the old city memories, turning humble objects to installation art.
Sadly, this sensitive photographer passed away in Hong Kong this April, at the age of 64. It is believed that Wolf’s works will keep touching and inspiring more and more people all over the world, making them aware of their own identity and preserving the culture.