Hong Kong Shifts: Photo Journalism Project Spotlights Everyday People That Make Our City Work

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Hong Kong Shifts is a project that started back in July 2019 to raise awareness and change perspectives on the everyday lives of Hong Kong shift workers that the city depends on to function, but are often overlooked in society. Through the lens of a camera, the project showcases the stories of these individuals – taxi drivers, nurses, post office workers and street cleaners – accompanied by their own words in both Cantonese and English, with the hope for a more inclusive Hong Kong. 

Founded last year by Cynthia Cheng and Maxime Vanhollebeke, who met while working at an international law firm, Hong Kong Shifts is a visual storytelling initiative spotlighting the stories of the city’s often forgotten but essential shift workers. 

Every week, the project posts a new story and portrait on their Facebook and Instagram page, chronicling the profiles, personalities and experiences of people of all genders, ages, and social, cultural and religious backgrounds, from security guards to cobblers and street cleaners. With each portrait, the project publishes a narrative in both Cantonese and English, based on an in-person interview. 

We want to highlight the dignity and respect that they deserve through storytelling.

Cynthia Cheng

“The inspiration behind the project was to shine a spotlight on the shift workers who play an integral role in our community to keep the city ticking, but who are often overlooked or ignored,” Cheng tells Green Queen. “We want to highlight the dignity and respect that they deserve through storytelling.”

Vanhollebeke added that Hong Kong Shifts is also about connecting people from more privileged communities of Hong Kong with the grassroots Hongkongers, taking a major step away from what social media is often used for – to promote ourselves, instead of others.

“We want to use social media to put the spotlight on those who are often taken for granted,” he explains. “Through this project, we are hoping to build bridges and contribute modestly towards a more inclusive society.”

In the wake of what has been a hugely difficult year for Hong Kong, the photojournalism project wants to also serve as a platform to promote positive social inclusion initiatives by other local nonprofit organisations and social enterprises through events and fundraisers. This is especially crucial at a time when many essential workers are among the most vulnerable groups in society to the coronavirus, and have been disproportionately affected by the impacts of the pandemic

Through this project, we are hoping to build bridges and contribute modestly towards a more inclusive society.

Maxime Vanhollebeke

“It has been a challenging and tumultuous year for HK and, now more than ever, we feel it is important to share stories of strength, resilience and positivity,” said Cheng. 

The project has reverberated with its intended audience, finding a mass of followers on social media, particularly on Instagram where the project first started, who find the arresting photography inspiring and inspired.

“Our goal is to bridge gaps and create meaningful connections at a time where there has been so much negativity and fragmentation in our communities.”

Green Queen has partnered with Hong Kong Shifts to bring you an exclusive limited edition series showcasing the stories of everyday shift workers who work tirelessly in the background of our busy lives. Explore the series here


All images courtesy of Hong Kong Shifts. 


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