My next round of photo shoots led me to three Barbershops, two in Kwun Tong on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong called Neighbors Barber Shop, and Thug Barber and another in Sai Wan on the Hong Kong Island side called Black Cat Club Barbers.
I reflected upon some of the work of Walker Evens from the Aperture Masters of Photography book (Aperture, 2015, p54,91) which referred to the Farmers Kitchen table picture of the details of the shine of the tablecloth and the texture of the wood grain and nails with almost a silky texture to it.
And the Trash Can picture, which was described as being humanised treasures of unwanted trash from the capital of New York. With these concepts and photographic attributes in mind, I tried to think about the human aspects of what I was about to take a picture of, and also see how much details I could also gather in the lens.
As with many of the barbershops in Hong Kong, these days space is at a premium, so it was no surprise to see the Kwun Tong barbershop in an old industrial building. The business owner Stanley Li was kind enough to let me take as long as I needed to take my photographs. I tried to immerse myself into the soul of this barbershop. I imagined what kind of people and conversations took place here, so I observed the place as I set up my gear. As I was there I asked Stanley about how he began his business he told me he used to be a hairdresser here in Hong Kong and he learned the art of barbering by building up his knowledge and practising. He said he designed the look of the barbershop and that what was most important was that this was a place for the neighbourhood to gather and talk and have a drink meet old and new friends.
Well, the first shot I took was the entrance. I wanted to capture the whole front and some of the surrounding area to give some context to the barbershop. This was a very tight angle to take a picture from. I tried varies ultra wide angle lens, and this was as good as I could get. The only lens I know that could capture this wide without the mass distortion was an LAOWA 12mm F2.8 ZERO-D Wide Angle Lens, so I could only manage this with a Canon EFS 10-18 mm lens. I had to almost push the opposite shop door to get this shot.
After a lot of post-production and a lot of lens correction testing with Lightroom and some modifications with DXO Optics Pro I managed to get a decent pic
The next handheld shots I took was the interior of the barbershop, with the two brothers chatting. I thought this picture was a humanised picture, but perhaps the composition could have been better.
The lighting was extremely challenging due to the mass of colours on display and the warm and cool and blue lighting. I feel I need to do more research into this type of almost nighttime low-light photography. I could not get the details, without the noise issue and at the same time capture the ongoing activities, so I decided to change to a faster F/2 sharper studio manual lens with a tripod and 12mm.
I thought this was quite successful and allowed me to slow down the process and consider more about the picture and not so much about the technical aspects. So having taken a lot of different pictures with a wide angle lens a manual focus lens, I decided to take another couple of photo session including some portraits of the business owner Stanley Li.
The result was what I wanted, but still not quite how I envisaged
My next photo shoot was in the Shang Wan area of Hong Kong, the Barbershop was, in fact, a barber shop and tattoo parlour in one area call Black Cat Club. To be fair the Barber Shop is being transformed into one barbershop, while the Tattoo Parlour will be as one also. So I decided to I will try to take some pictures anyway and will take more at a later date when the transformations have been completed later. I did get a few good shots, but not so many in the barber shop area due to the transition of relaunching a new business, perhaps I can do a tattoo parlour presentation later. I thought the tattoo area photos somehow led me to more interesting pictures.
My final barbershop shoot from this round was of Thug Barbershop also in Kwun Tong area of Hong Kong, and also in an industrial building converted for a variety of business. This barbershop was a one-man operation in the name of Don. Don was very helpful and allowed me to take as many photos on the day. The style of this barbershop was Western-centric, and in fact, he had a soundtrack of the Smiths (Band from the 1980’s) playing in the background. Don had just recently set this shop after he did some hairdressing in Hong Kong and spent a year in Australia at a barbershop and when he returned back he set up this business. I think some of these pictures as with many others of barbershops do look good in black and white due to the historic nature of barbers and photography such as the work of Werner Bisch (Bischof, 2016) some of his unpublished work from the book Helvetica shows a collection of Industrial workers reminds me of the rawness of these professions.
I was particularly interested in the way he selected his images in this book, it shows how he judged his own work to some degree, perhaps that particular face in the picture above he had chosen as the main picture of this collection captured the working man of the day and his rugged expression was a reflection of something or someone.
I tried to capture the spirit of this new barbershop and the character of the man and his business.
Bischof, W. (2016). Helvetica. 1st ed. Musée de l’Elysée and Editions Noir sur Blanc.
Fig1. Aperture (2015). Aperture Masters of Photography: Walker Evans. 1st ed. New York: Aperture Foundation, p.54.
Fig 2. Aperture (2015). Aperture Masters of Photography: Walker Evans. 1st ed. New York: Aperture Foundation, p.91.