I have been long fascinated about people who manage to live in unusual or tiny dwellings. Where we live deeply shapes how we live, and to draw a biological metaphor, those who can or must live in extraordinary situations.
Michael Wolf made a photo exhibit called 100×100 depicting residents of (one of) Hong Kong’s oldest public housing developments. The pictures of 100 apartments — each is 10 square feet; more like SROs than the apartments we think of — tell more about the residents than old Hong Kong colonial housing policy. Some in the blogosphere have been depressed or awe-struck by what they see. I am impressed by different ways — with strong common themes — people cope with their situation and make it home.
I can’t help but think that Wolf makes us care about strangers by amplifying their (presumed) invitation to photograph their private quarters.
First, while most of the resident are elderly, I don’t think they are “retired.” Notice the rubber gloves hung to dry in several of the photos. One man has a commerical sewing machine. Two old men have a mound small cabbages: lunch, or his livelihood? Despite the same space and common furnishings — most people have bunk beds with the uppers used for storage; nearly all pictures show kettles and rice cookers — they all have a distinct style from sparse to jam-packed. Ovaltine seems popular. Most cover up the fixed air vents, using everything from tape to paper bags from McDonald’s. Many have small shrines, posters with stylized calligraphy hinting at something auspicious, or both. Some come up with clever ideas; I am partial to the resident who hangs pictures on a wall like fish-scales and packs a lot in.
A door to a home; window to the soul?
Hat tip: Gridskipper, “100 x 100 HK Photos”