Cody Ellingham’s project, Fantasy City by the Harbor, strips back the bustling city of Hong Kong to carve out quiet moments of introspection.
Ellingham’s project, released as a 64-page art book, explores the story of the Chinese city in his photographic project and seeks to “strip back crowded and noisy streets.”
Inspired by the color and composition from the golden age of Hong Kong cinema, which ran from the 1980s through to the early 2000s, Ellingham tells the story of the city from its architecture.
New Zealander Ellingham regularly visited Hong Kong while living abroad and says the project came out of a deep yearning for travel which has been put on hold for the past few years due to Covid-19 restrictions. It is also retrospective, looking back on the way Hong Kong has changed.
“A lot has happened since 2018 when I was there last and I have had a long time to consider these photographs and reflect on what the city means. Though Hong Kong was never a place I belonged to, I have always felt a connection to it and a great sense of nostalgia,” explains Ellingham.
“The name Fantasy City by the Harbour comes from the idea that there are two Hong Kongs: the one in reality and the one that we fondly remember in our memories. I often wonder how we can get back to that other Hong Kong, of which only dreams remain.”
The limited collector’s edition of the artbook includes signed photographs by the artist as well as a printed plane ticket and other artifacts. The ticket’s destination is the long-defunct Kai Tak Airport in Kowloon, which closed its gates a quarter of a century ago.
“When I was in Hong Kong I was able to sneak into where Kai Tak Airport once was and explore the last remaining airport buildings and the old runways. The whole area is under construction but if you look closely you can still make out what used to be there.
“For me, Kai Tak Airport is the image of old Hong Kong: crowded, noisy, and full of life. By using it as a focal point of the artwork I feel like it is a way to travel back to that old Hong Kong that lives on in our memories. There’s something beautiful about that, even if it can only exist in fantasy.”
Alongside the artbook, Ellingham is also launching a metaverse project on Substrata — where people can build and share virtual worlds and chat with other users. The metaverse project will evolve over time, bringing together digital artifacts and images from Hong Kong into an online world that people can explore and discover.
“The Substrata metaverse is an ethereal place to create an imagining and record of what Hong Kong was, and is. Just like the real Hong Kong, the Substrata project is perpetually under construction as I continue to add to it.”
His most recent project was Wander the Night – an audio-visual collaboration with UK sound artist Simon James French featuring soundscapes and photography from nocturnal cities.
Image credits: All photos by Cody Ellingham.