fantasy city by the harbour: a nostalgic artbook
Released as a 64-page artbook, Cody Ellingham’s ‘Fantasy City by the Harbour’ is an exploration of Hong Kong’s architecture and people’s memories of the bustling city most known for its dizzying high-rises, densely packed urban neighbourhoods, and vibrant nocturnal cityscapes. Ellingham’s photographs and accompanying short stories look beyond these first impressions to better understand the story of the city. Stripping back the crowded and noisy streets to carve out quiet moments of introspection, the photographer captures moonlight peering through an old apartment block in Yau Ma Tei, misty lights blazing out across the harbour, and remnants of an old airport silhouetted against the skyline. The artbook has a strong cinematic influence, inspired by the golden age of Hong Kong cinema from the 1980s through to the early 2000s. This comes through in the images’ treatment of colour and composition as the story winds through the architecture and fabric of the city.
quiet moments of reflection are captured in Fantasy City by the Harbour
all images by Cody Ellingham
cody ellingham evokes dream-like memories of hong kong
‘Fantasy City by the Harbour’ is a fond recollection of Cody Ellingham’s memories from his own frequent travels to the city while living abroad. The New Zealand based photographer 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. Currently settled in Wellington, Ellingham draws parallels between his home city and Hong Kong — both harbour cities. ‘I often find moments where I catch a glimpse of something that reminds me of Hong Kong’, he says. Looking back at the way Hong Kong has changed over time and reflecting on what the city means to him, the photographer comments:‘Though Hong Kong was never a place I belonged to, I have always felt a connection to it and a great sense of nostalgia’.
He further explains how the name for ‘Fantasy City by the Harbour’ comes from the idea that there are two versions of Hong Kong — the one that exists 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 project is an exploration of Hong Kong’s architecture and people’s memories of the bustling city
capturing dizzying high-rises and nocturnal cityscapes
The limited collector’s edition of the artbook includes signed photographs by Cody Ellingham as well as a selection of artefacts and a printed plane ticket to the long-defunct Kai Tak Airport in Kowloon. One of the images captures the remnants of the old airport silhouetted against Hong Kong’s bustling skyline. The photographer uses the structure as a focal point to the artwork as a way to travel back to the old Hong Kong that exists only in people’s memories. ‘For me Kai Tak Airport is the image of old Hong Kong: crowded, noisy, and full of life’, he reflects.
‘Fantasy City by the Harbour’ follows Ellingham’s internationally successful New Zealand Nocturnes, Danchi Dreams and Future Cities photo exhibitions. His most recent project, Wander the Night, is an audio-visual collaboration with UK sound artist Simon James French, featuring soundscapes and photography from nocturnal cities. Alongside the artbook, the photographer is also soon launching a metaverse project on Substrata. The Substrata metaverse, which is intended to evolve over time as the photographer gradually adds on to it, will be an ethereal place to create an imagining and record of what Hong Kong was, and is, bringing together digital artefacts and images from the city into a virtual world that people can explore and discover.
in a dream-like composition, moonlight peers through dense, dizzying towers