Honkey Kong

Date Published: 6/4/2015
Category: Interview

Stockholm’s super flat landscape is no match compared to the towering framework of Hong Kong - the view from above is a heady mix of power, fear and awe.

So it’s no wonder that Sweden-based photographer Christian Åslund was instantly inspired sitting atop the Hong Kong skyline, looking down.

“I was really amazed by the view from up there. Seeing daily life from a bird’s perspective, I got the idea for this project instantly.”

First came the concept, then came the Scandinavian sneakerheads: Shoe brand Jim Rickey were immediately sold on Christian’s idea to harness the old school video game style and turn Hong Kong into their own personal 2D Donkey Kong world.

Using a NIKKOR 70-200 mm f2.8 tele lens and the abundance of high rooftops, the streets transformed into a flat canvas in which the character could navigate through. No green screens, no photoshopping, just pure imagination and the desire to capture the moment from a different perspective.

“The feeling of the images being shot in the field is much more authentic and it’s very difficult to resample these kinds of shots in the studio. I have a background in photojournalism and even though this was an advertising shoot, I wanted to keep the retouching to a minimum.”

So how did the Honkey Kong series come together? All it took was a team of three to get the job done, each member of the group actually featuring in the campaign. “Instead of bringing professional models with us, we knew it was more about the feeling of the images. We also knew that a large crew would only slow us down.”

So from the heights of Hong Kong’s rooftops, the crew became the characters traversing the newly envisaged terrain, the expansive view making the shots all the more remarkable.

As Christian reflects on the making of this project, the biggest challenge was actually gaining access to different rooftops and getting permission to shoot from them. Once up there it was smooth sailing, using the Nikon D3s to not only create their video game world, but to capture the often unseen details of the Hong Kong cityscape.

“I believe the Honkey Kong campaign series worked because of its weird and twisted perspective of an ordinary view. We have all been sat upon a higher point looking down, but perhaps never considered seeing it in that way.

“I think the series got a lot of people, particularly in Hong Kong, to notice and appreciate the small details that make this city unique. It’s with this as with life in general, you won’t notice the culture you’re in until you get a chance to step back and observe from a distance.”

Reflecting on the impact of this project, Christian has a message to fellow photographers out there:
“I would love to see if people could take the idea further and do their own versions of the concept. There are enough vertical cities out here in Asia.”