August 04, 2017

Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up - 4th August, 2017

This week Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up goes back to Hong Kong with Benny Lam's Trapped, plus some personal insights from a recent trip.

Photo essay:
Benny Lam - Trapped

According to the Society for Community Organisation, in Hong Kong more than 200,000 people live in what are described as 'Coffin Cubicles,' tiny, cramped spaces that house individuals and also families with children. Pressured by unemployment, rising housing costs and overcrowding, many find themselves with little choice. Greedy landlords divide up rooms and buildings, illegally, and charge more than $USD250 a month for the privilege of living in a room the size of a broom closet. 

Photographer Benny Lam's expose is shocking. He told National Geographic's Proof that through his series called “Trapped,” he "wants to illuminate the suffocating dwellings that exist where the lights of Hong Kong’s prosperity don’t reach. He hopes by making the tenants and their homes visible, more people will start paying attention to the social injustices of their circumstances.

“You may wonder why we should care, as these people are not a part of our lives,” Lam writes on his Facebook page. “They are exactly the people who come into your life every single day: they are serving you as the waiters in the restaurants where you eat, they are the security guards in the shopping malls you wander around, or the cleaners and the delivery men on the streets you pass through. The only difference between us and them is [their homes]. This is a question of human dignity.”

(C) All photos Benny Lam

You can read his story and view more images at National Geographic Proof.

Hong Kong Domestic Workers' Day Off

One Sunday when I was in Hong Kong recently I saw these congregations of women. They were sitting on the sidewalk, on overpasses, outside hotels and up-market shopping centres. At first I thought they were homeless, although the sheer numbers refuted that notion. Quickly I learned their stories.  

Hong Kong’s live-in domestic workers are entitled to only one day off a week. With no place of their own, every Sunday they congregate on the streets, a practice that has been going on since the 1980s. 

Thousands of mostly female Filipino migrant workers bring food, drink and music. They sit with their friends on pieces of cardboard spending the entire day outdoors, and often staying until late into the night. They eat, dance, play cards and chat about their lives and their families who they have left behind - often these women have to leave their own children and travel afar to earn money for the family. 

Most of these women are abused by their employers - underpaid, underfed and forced to live in accommodation that in some instances takes the form of a mat on the floor of a closet. The majority work 16 hour days. 

But some domestic workers are beginning to organise and in recent months there have been protests for improved working conditions. 

Yet another glimpse into a side of Hong Kong that is in stark contrast to the tourism brochures. 

(C) All photos Alison Stieven-Taylor 2017