Since moving to Hong Kong in 2011, photographer Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze has been captivated by the beauty of Chinese characters. In his latest series, City Poetry, his longstanding interest has made its way into his work. Like his previous photo series The Blue Moment and Concrete Stories, which we’ve featured before, Jacquet-Lagrèze puts a fresh spin on an over-photographed cliché of Hong Kong: its iconic signs.
Rather than the rows of neon billboards and sign-cluttered streets that are ubiquitous on Instagram, Jacquet-Lagrèze takes a close-up look at Hong Kong’s signage. His photos isolate individual characters from their original context and highlight how prolonged exposure to time and the elements have worn them down. Yet despite the peeling paint and cracked veneers, the characters—even when they’ve completely fallen off—remain legible. “People designed them to be informative and attractive,” Jacquet-Lagrèze says, “But I think the erosion transforms them into something more, something deeper.”
City Poetry goes beyond mere documentation though. With help from his Hong Kong-born wife, Jacquet-Lagrèze has taken this collection of characters and assembled them into various idioms and phrases, imbuing them with new meaning beyond their original context and paying tribute to Cantonese culture.
不同于 Instagram 上随处可见的霓虹灯招牌和的街道，Romain 近距离观察香港的标牌。他的照片将单个的汉字与原来的上下文隔离开来，凸显了那些招牌经年累月的痕迹。那些汉字，尽管油漆斑驳、背板开缝——甚至完全剥落——但依然清晰可见。“人们把它们设计成饱含信息量且充满吸引力的样子，但我认为时光的侵蚀使之转化成更充沛、更深刻的东西。”
不过，《City Poetry》并不仅仅局限于此。在香港出生的妻子的帮助下，Romain 把这些字汇集成各种习语和短语，赋予它们原有语境之外的新含义，并致敬粤语文化。