Scaffolders. Tram drivers. Recyclers. Sign holders. Hawkers. Shoe shiners. We see these workers every day in Hong Kong, and yet hardly ever realize it. They are mostly invisible — labourers who we are so used to seeing out on the streets that our minds often blur them out when we walk past them. Yet these workers often toil the hardest in our busy city, bearing the hard sun for long hours in their professions, and yet are paid close to minimum wage for their efforts.
Street Life Hong Kong gives a voice to the voiceless. The book contains the profiles of 25 citizens who work outdoors, and whose stories are often unheard of in our beloved city. Accompanying these profiles are beautiful black-and-white photos taken by photographer Michael Perini. These photos present the subjects at work, and give added depth to their stories by recreating the bustling atmosphere that surrounds them every day. There is Yiu Chan-Leung, a rare female tram driver who had to work out at the gym to pull the manual controls on her tram, and who gives an insight into the patience it requires to drive a tram on busy roads where trams are not able to veer away from cars or unseeing pedestrians. There is also Kwok Shu-Tai, a sampan tour guide who was kidnapped as a child and sold to her sampan adoptive mother, and who gives a fascinating insight into what life is like on the water, and the differences between ‘boat people’ and ‘land people’.
Street Life Hong Kong celebrates our bustling city by highlighting the outdoor workers who reside in it. The book forces us to face those who make a living on the streets, and any who may hold prejudice towards these individuals will soon be humbled by the stories and voices that shine out in the book. This eye opening read will be sure to be a source of reevaluation for your life the next time you may complain about a crowded train or a hot day.
— Samuel Rossiter