Cinematic Photos of Hong Kong Find Quiet Moments in the Bustling City

Fantasy City by the harbor

Cody Ellingham’s project, Fantasy City by the Harbor, strips back the bustling city of Hong Kong to carve out quiet moments of introspection.

Ellingham’s project, released as a 64-page art book, explores the story of the Chinese city in his photographic project and seeks to “strip back crowded and noisy streets.”

Inspired by the color and composition from the golden age of Hong Kong cinema, which ran from the 1980s through to the early 2000s, Ellingham tells the story of the city from its architecture.

fantasy city by the harbor

fantasy city by the harbor

fantasy city by the harbor

New Zealander Ellingham regularly visited Hong Kong while living abroad and says the project came out of a deep yearning for travel which has been put on hold for the past few years due to Covid-19 restrictions. It is also retrospective, looking back on the way Hong Kong has changed.

“A lot has happened since 2018 when I was there last and I have had a long time to consider these photographs and reflect on what the city means. Ellingham says that although Hong Kong is not a city I belong to, it has always been a part of my life and I feel a strong sense of nostalgia.

fantasy city by the harbor

fantasy city by the harbor

“The name Fantasy City by the Harbour comes from the idea that there are two Hong Kongs: the one in reality and the one that we fondly remember in our memories. I often wonder how we can get back to that other Hong Kong, of which only dreams remain.”

fantasy city by the harbor

fantasy city by the harbor

fantasy city by the harbor

The limited collector’s edition of the artbook includes signed photographs by the artist as well as a printed plane ticket and other artifacts. This ticket is bound for the now-defunct Kai Tak Airport, Kowloon. It closed its doors 25 years ago.

“When I was in Hong Kong I was able to sneak into where Kai Tak Airport once was and explore the last remaining airport buildings and the old runways. Although the entire area is currently under construction, you will still be able to see what was there in the past if you pay attention.

“For me, Kai Tak Airport is the image of old Hong Kong: crowded, noisy, and full of life. By using it as a focal point of the artwork I feel like it is a way to travel back to that old Hong Kong that lives on in our memories. There’s something beautiful about that, even if it can only exist in fantasy.”

fantasy city by the harbor

fantasy city by the harbor

Alongside the artbook, Ellingham is also launching a metaverse project on Substrata — where people can build and share virtual worlds and chat with other users. Over time the metaverse project will grow, merging digital artifacts from Hong Kong with images to create an online universe that can be explored and discovered by all.

” The Substrata Metaverse allows you to imagine and create a record of Hong Kong as it was and continues to be. Just like the real Hong Kong, the Substrata project is perpetually under construction as I continue to add to it.”

fantasy city by the harbor

fantasy city by the harbor

fantasy city by the harbor

His most recent project was Wander the Night – an audio-visual collaboration with UK sound artist Simon James French featuring soundscapes and photography from nocturnal cities.

More of Ellingham’s work can be found on his website, Instagram, and Twitter.


Image credits: All photos by Cody Ellingham.

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