FRENCH PHOTOGRAPHER – ROMAIN JACQUET-LAGREZE
Do you know Hong Kong is the top destination for French people who want to live and work in Asia? With more than 25,000 French living in Hong Kong, there are a lot of interesting stories around the city…
Hi Romain! Thanks for coming today. Before we start the interview, would you mind introducing yourself a bit to our community?
I am Romain, a French born citizen. I went to Hong Kong by chance 10 years ago and I am now living here with my wife who is a Hong Konger and my children. I was a freelancing web designer in the beginning and was just practicing photography for hobbies. After arrived Hong Kong, I found this city so impressive and start taking photos of Hong Kong. Starting from 2011, I shifted my career from a web designer to photographer gradually. In the past 9 years, I have been taking many photos of this city. My focus is on the landscape and architecture of Hong Kong. So far, I have published four books and held many exhibitions in different places, including Hong Kong, Shanghai, Paris and the Netherlands. My latest exhibition is “City Poetry.
Can you tell us one fun fact about yourself?
I learn Chinese with photography. I have been living here for almost ten years, but Chinese is so difficult that I always try to avoid learning it, until my latest series. Thanks for “City Poetry”, I am finally learning Chinese.
What was your dream job when you were small?
I love animals when I was young. So maybe an animal photographer? haha… Actually anything related to animal would be nice.
Do you have any particular inspiration or muse?
My inspiration comes from everyday lives. As I was fascinated by the city, I love to explore the city. I take a lot of photos around the city and I found my inspiration with the daily photos I have taken. Like my second project “Wild Concrete”, I accidentally saw the three growing on the building and I was inspired by it. Later, I try to find more buildings like this and it eventually developed into a new project.
“I picked some characters that can still be recognized but with a fading color by intention, so as to symbolize Hong Kong culture is fading out gradually.
For this series, the textile and color of the neon light carries much more meanings than just the characters.”
What is the most frequent comment you heard from Hong Kong people who came to visit your exhibitions?
People are just happy that I recorded them down. I think all of us recognize those things (architecture, Chinese characters in neon light advertisements) are beautiful, just that no one record them down. Everyone notices that those things are disappearing, so the most frequent comments I heard from Hong Kong people were “thank you”, “thank you for doing this.”
Did you find any similarities or differences between Hong Kong and France?
The cities are very different. Hong Kong is a newly developed city while Paris or France is more historical. I found Hong Kong more organic, and with less constraints. While in Paris, there are a lot of constraints on architectures. For example, you cannot build things that taller than 9 floors or 8 floors, and your building must look like the surrounding buildings. It makes the city much more uniform and pretty, but at the same time less lively. For me, Hong Kong is less “pretty” but more beautiful in a way that the city is more authentic and vivid.
For similarities, maybe we all care about politics? As you may know, French like to talk and argue about politics.
What is your first impression of Hong Kong?
I didn’t like the city that much at the first place. I came here because of my girlfriend, my wife now. We were both planning to move to Japan, so Hong Kong is like a middle point to stop by. At first, everything’s so messy to me. It is difficult to find the right track to follow. But after staying here for a few months, I started loving it. What made me love it the most is that you can easily go out of the city, like to go hiking or go to the beach, which I cannot find it in Paris and Tokyo.
How do you feel about the French community in Hong Kong?
There are a lot of French in Hong Kong. I see many of them are trying to import French cultures in Hong Kong, like wine and French arts. Although I am not studying arts in France, I am still a French artist and doing photography in Hong Kong with the mindset of a French artist. I think I am doing something similar as what the others do. Taking something you think it’s the best from your country, and try to make it grow here.
What is your favorite place in Hong Kong & France?
Mong Kok, Prince Edward, Yau Ma Tei …those are my favourite places. You are always surrounded by buildings in different eras in those locations. And you can easily walk across the districts. A lot of my photos are taken from these locations.
In Paris, my favourite place is a beautiful lake near Bois de Vincennes. I discovered it pretty late, at around 26 years old. The place is very nice, there’s even an island you can come and visit. For me, it is also a nice place to escape from the city.
What would be your next achievement?
In term of photography, I am still working on the City Poetry. And I am expanding the series to not only characters but also some Chinese iconic figures, like dragon.
I am doing another exhibition with Blue Lotus Gallery in Christmas Medley Exhibition until the end of January. If you are interested in my artworks, especially the City Poetry series, don’t forget to drop by and have a look!