I’ve often thought of Hong Kong as ‘the New York of Asia’. While it’s a business powerhouse, it’s distinctive lack of ego gives it a warmth that is often lost in other cities it’s size. I’ve worked there over the years as both a photographer and a model. I recall one of those occasions, in 2005. I’d been offered a contract by Models International and was to be staying at the model’s apartment located on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong harbour. My room mate was to be Dora, a slender German model from Berlin. We had met a year earlier, forming a friendship that had gotten us through some challenging times while working in Guangzhou.
It was n't long before I got around to meeting the other models from the agency. Each assigned to various levels of the New World Apartments. Basically when you sign with a model agency as an overseas model, the agent sets you up with accommodation on-arrival, a metro card and a city map for castings. They later deduct it all from your earnings. Most agencies are connected to sister agencies around the world, making it easier to fly in and out of cities and work for short periods of time.
On Friday nights everyone would meet at a club in Soho called Dragon-i. It was an opportunity to catch up and talk shop with the other models in town. With their flawless olive skin and chiseled bodies, it was hard not to notice the Brazilian models when they entered the club. Amongst the other regulars were a group of Australians, some Dutch, and a Latvian by the name of Olga. I recall meeting her for the first time. Wide eyed with translucent skin, Olga walked with the grace of a gazelle. Through her many travels and her love of books, she had a quiet wisdom about her. One of our favourite topics of discussion was to compare the traits of cities as if they were people, dividing them into masculine and feminine. Paris and Riga were both feminine, London masculine, while Hong Kong was left undecided. Perhaps one has to spent time away from a place to truely have an objective view.
Because we’d all come to the city for work, the idea of having a night out on the town, and paying for it the next day was indeed rare. Often, we’d leave the club by ten in order to make the last ferry crossing for the night. From the outer deck of the Star Ferry, we’d sit, watching the neon lights of the city as they danced their way across the waves. For less than a dollar a ticket, it was easily the best show in town.