By now, thanks to the Internet, you’ve likely seen a few photographs taken by fearless, typically Eastern European youth dangling from the tops of skyscrapers to snap sweaty-palm-inducing aerial views of the street. These thrilling images capture what might be the 21st-century iteration of the sublime, a visual that makes one simultaneously recoil in fear and pine for more. Part of their appeal stems from the fact that only a rare few have experienced looking down at the world from such death-defying heights; the photographs thus document a highly unusual relationship with the city and its architecture. Photographer Romain Jacquet-Lagreze has remarkably managed to capture a similar sense of awe in his photographs of Hong Kong by manipulating a perspective that we are all familiar with: looking up from the ground. Click to see more.
Jacquet-Lagreze’s “Vertical Horizon” series is a photo essay—and book—exploring the rapid vertical expansion of one of the densest cities in the world. While images of Hong Kong’s skyline are common enough, Jacquet-Lagreze’s almost abstract photos of the city’s buildings, taken from an unerringly vertical, worm’s eye perspective, show an oppressive man-made environment —notably devoid of actual humans—that easily crowds the view of the camera lens, leaving only a small patch of sky visible in the middle of each composition.
The photographer described his project as “a deep immersion into the city’s thick atmosphere and a visual record of its wildly built environment” and “a contemplative dive into the raw nature of Hong Kong and an expression of its vertical élan.” One of the great virtues of “Vertical Horizon,” however, may be its privileging of the street-level experience of skyscrapers—albeit a dramatized street-level experience. Jacquet-Lagreze’s photographs suggest that buildings cannot be analyzed from the conventional views framed in run-of-the-mill architectural photographs and renderings; the visual impact these buildings have on people inhabiting the public space of the street cannot be ignored.