Hong Kong is famous for its bustling streets. In this book we hear from two dozen real people who provide its outdoor colour. We meet a flower seller, a street musician and a tram driver; a bouncer, a shoeshiner and a gas canister delivery man; a site foreman and a lifeguard; one man who climbs bamboo scaffolding for a living, and a woman who ferries visitors around the harbour on a sampan.
These are the working people who are always seen but rarely heard, and in this book they tell their life stories in their own words. Sharp black-and-white portraits immerse the reader in the dynamic streetscape of Hong Kong.
“Street Life Hong Kong is timely: many readers may hope someone slips a copy of this book under Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s Christmas tree, given the fears he has recently expressed about allowing certain sections of society a say in how our city is run. The book gives a voice to – and puts a human face on – 25 citizens who work outdoors and mostly go unnoticed in the daily hustle of our bustling city. Hong Kong’s ruling elite should also do themselves a favour, given the past month or so has shown the majority (if not all) of them to be so far removed from the realities of daily life as they are for the majority of Hongkongers. … One of the more illuminating aspects of the stories is the matter-of-fact way these people approach the situations in which they have found themselves – when your choices are limited, you play the cards fate deals you – and they share the moments of joy and of pride that they feel as they go about their daily lives. It’s that sense of commonality that makes Street Life Hong Kong by its end a celebration of our city and the spirit of the people who inhabit it.” – South China Morning Post
“Hong Kong-based author Nicole Chabot has just published a new book, “Street Life Hong Kong: Outdoor Workers in Their Own Words.” It’s a collection of 24 first-person accounts of often overlooked individuals: from scaffolding masters and public transportation drivers to pizza deliverymen and flower vendors. It’s a worthy successor to her 2012 book, “Kowloon: Unknown Territory,” which illustrated the vibrant street culture on the SAR’s peninsula. This time, Chabot delves deeper into the livelihoods, worries and whims of each interviewee, in the hope of providing a better understanding of this group of hardworking Hongkongers, many of whom earn monthly household incomes of less than $15,000.” – HK Magazine
“What gives Hong Kong its special flavor are the people that make the city work. Nicole Chabot’s new book, Street Life Hong Kong (Blacksmith Books, 2014) with photos by Michael Perini, showcases twenty-five people who work outside, many for low wages, in fields like transportation, small commerce, and sanitation, to name a few. I love the many types of transportation in Hong Kong, including the trams and ferries. In this book, Chabot and Perini feature a female tram driver and a male ferry coxswain (captain). They also interview a woman who grew up on a sampan and now takes tourists on sampan rides, as well as a school bus driver. The interviews are presented as first-person narratives, which are lovely and compelling.” – Susan Blumberg-Kason
“A slightly-overweight middle-aged Caucasian couple breaks into an impromptu jig. A Chinese girl, evidently a little jaded, on her way back home from work, stops to remove her earphones. Salt-and-pepper haired South Asian men, hooded large-eyed women from the middle-east and sun-tanned white men, fingers interlocked with their long-haired Filipina companions, pass by. Each time one of them bends a little to put a note in his violin case that Selwyn Magahin has left open in front of him. He takes a bow. It’s a gesture so earnest that one would think he had just received a standing ovation at City Hall. But then that’s the point of busking, says Magahin, a driver by day, who plays after work at the entrance of the old Central Market, in a corner of the profusely-illustrated corridor leading to the escalator. “A busker does not discriminate between his audiences. You could say I have brought the violin out of the City Hall for the enjoyment of the general public. It’s one of the most democratic and human things one could do.” … He’s all agog about being featured in Street Life Hong Kong. “Now I’ll be a part of history, maybe even a ready reckoner for people interested in busking. Those wishing to research the subject are most welcome,” he says. “And who knows maybe even someone from the government will come calling, ‘Hey Selwyn, we have a place for you in the ministry of music!'” He laughs out loud at this point. After all, an artist, if anyone, has the license to dream.” – China Daily
“Like Chabot’s book on Kowloon, the aim of Street Life Hong Kong is to reveal more about the socio-cultural fabric of Hong Kong, to engender understanding and appreciation between different socio-economic groups, and to strengthen a feeling of community and Hong Kong identity. ‘Due to their position on the socio-economic ladder, people such as the interviewees of Street Life Hong Kong are often invisible and rarely afforded much thought,’ Chabot says. ‘Seldom are their stories told, though they arguably form the backbone of Hong Kong.’ ” – Perspective