ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “photography

INSTAGRAM PIER, A Short-lived Paradise in Shek Tong Tsui (石塘咀), Hong Kong

On 28th February, 2021, joggers, dog walkers, photographers, and fishing enthusiasts in Shek Tong Tsui were shocked to see their beloved Western District Public Cargo Working Area (西區公眾貨物裝卸區) had been closed off to the public. Several times voted as one of the most favourite public spaces in the city, the government freight pier was more commonly known as the Instagram Pier, thanks to its high popularity on the social media throughout the past decade. Extended westwards into the Victoria Harbour, the pier was famous for its unrivaled sunset views, along with its rustic cranes and construction materials for selfie backdrops, and handsome reflections of sunset skies in water puddles after rain, an effect that prompted netizens to name the pier “Mirror of the Sky” (天空之鏡). The magnificent open space has become an Internet sensation since 2010, but not until 2015, when the MTR extended to Sai Wan (西環), that a much larger influx of outsiders and oversea visitors, especially the younger generation, had arrived at the pier to chill out under the western sun.

For the local community, the pier had served as their collective backyard since the 1990’s. They would hang out at the loading and unloading area, to jog, fish and walk the dog. It was the sense of freedom and spatial openness (a rarity in Downtown Hong Kong) that made the pier such a unique public space for the community. In November 2014, the Marine Department put up warning notices at the pier to dissuade the public from entering the pier. The notices had make little impact on altering the common perception that the pier was a leisure space available for all. Since then, the authorities had made a few proposal to erect railings and partially converted the pier into a “proper” park. The government’s intent had met with fierce objections from the community. While the government’s main aim was to reduce liability (if any accident happen) and establish a higher degree of control, what the community and visitors truly appreciate about the pier was the vast open space and unobstructed views, the freedom to use the space in any way one could think of, and the lack of unwanted street furniture, eyesore decorations, and flimsy exercise equipment that might not last for a few months.

Between 2010 and 2021, the Instagram Pier has left its unique mark in the story of Shek Tong Tsui. Not only was it the most visited attraction in the neighborhood, it was also the perfect spot in town where one could idly spend an afternoon to simply do nothing without interference from another human being (not even a park caretaker). It was also one of the most interesting spots in Hong Kong for people watching: strangers mingling with strangers, couple taking wedding shots, students sitting in a circle having their first sip of beer, girls learning skateboard with her boyfriend, man practicing guitar by the sea, unleashed dogs chasing one another, photo enthusiasts lying on the floor just to make the perfect shot of reflection out of a water puddle, women in fancy dresses climbing up and down the shipping pallets, scaffolding bamboo and construction materials to make all sorts of weird posts for selfies… Of course, such freedom would lead to issues with safety, hygiene and garbage to deal with. For the authorities, a public space should be finished with pavers, bounded with handrails and walls, equipped with park benches and flower beds, and spaces clearly defined for specific functions. For many, on the other hand, the Instagram Pier had represented almost the opposite: a stress-free and causal open space with little regulations and no specific facilities, just good views and emptiness. Recently, the pier has another layer of political consideration: a possible springboard for exploring the next potential land reclamation, connecting the west of Hong Kong Island to the distant Lantau Island via bridges and artificial islands. Even if the land reclamation doesn’t go ahead and the pier gets renovated and reopened as a public promenade in the future, we can pretty much assume that the space would be properly paved and fully equipped with railings. The floor would be flattened, leaving little chances for water puddles. For photography enthusiasts, the “Mirror of the Sky” at Sai Wan has officially become a story of the past.

The waterfront of Shek Tong Tsui has long been used for cargo docks and rice warehouses since the early 20th century. [Photograph by Mitchell Eleanor, around 1912-17. Image courtesy of E.G. France, University of Bristol Library Mi01-002 (www.hpcbristol.net), CC BY_NC_ND 4.0]
At the Instagram Pier, loads of building materials such as concrete blocks and scaffolding bamboo are often piled up by the side, waiting for transport to their next destination. [2020]
The enormous pile of bamboo was one of the favorite backdrop for people to take selfies. [2020]
Since MTR extended to Sai Wan, more outside visitors had arrived at the pier during weekends and after work. [2020]
The pier was frequented by runners and joggers. [2020]
At the pier, every visitor could easier find a spot to do his or her own thing. In many cases, the pier might be a much more desirable location than one’s tiny flat for certainly activities, such as playing music for a girlfriend. [2020]
A ladder was a handy tool to take portraits with the sea backdrop. [2020]
Sunset on a fine day would draw the crowds to the pier after work. [2020]
To the southwest, the buildings of Kennedy Town and Mount Davis were bathed in the golden sunlight. [2020]
Across Victoria Harbour, Stonecutters Bridge (昂船洲大橋) and the container port at Kwai Chung and Tsing Yi form a distinct scenery from the northwestern waterfront of Hong Kong Island. [2020]
The sunset over distant Lantau Island west of the pier was always the biggest draw for the crowds. [2020]
Without balustrade or benches, watching the sunset at the Instagram Pier was a perfect thing to end the day for any couple. [2020]
Young visitors loved to take selfies at the pier and post the images onto social media, spreading the words about the Instagram Pier throughout the city. [2020]
Not everyone came to the pier for selfies, some came for a “picnic”. [2020]
The Instagram Pier was one of the best spot in town for people watching. [2020]
Each group visitor would find their own spot to chill out. [2020]
Not park benches or planters, all there was is open space for people to wander. [2020]
Or hideaway spots away from the bustling and sometimes tiring urban scenes of Hong Kong. [2020]
The combination of the peaceful harbour scenery and the rustic pallets and container boxes offer an interesting contrast. [2020]
Finding a place in Hong Kong city centre that allows one to enjoy solitude is no easy thing. The Instagram Pier was a unique exception. [2020]
Even after sunset, visitors would come to the pier to chill out after dinner. [2020]
Without any regulations of what were prohibited at the pier, visitors basically would use the space for whatever they could think of. BMX cyclists were common users of the pier. [2020]
The lamppost guards were popular for seating and selfies taking. [2020]
Skateboarding was a perfect fit for the rustic ambience of the pier. [2020]
Dog owners chatted while their dogs mingled and ran away. [2020]
Every ten metres or so there would be someone fishing. [2020]
The Instagram Pier would certain remain as a collective memory for the local community for years to come. [2020]
Probably once serving as the most causal open space in town, the Instagram Pier would live long in people’s memories. [2020]

***

While the Instagram Pier was closed down indefinitely in 2021, the adjacent Central and Western District Promenade has opened in the same year to the public. The ambience reflects quite a different story from the Instagram Pier, from rustic and cool environment preferred by the youth, to kid-friendly and orderly catered for the kids and elderly.

At the new promenade, cute figures would take the place of scaffolding bamboos and container boxes to serve as selfie backdrop. [2021]
3D painting on the floor also offers another feature for selfie takers. [2021]
From Shek Tong Tsui, the new promenade extends eastwards to Sai Ying Pun and Sheung Wan.
Probably the most interesting feature at the new promenade is the set of concrete drainage tunnel where kids can enjoy themselves by crawling in. [2021]
Fixed exercise facilities are provided at the new promenade targeted for the elderly. [2021]
Not quite spectacular as the one at the former Instagram Pier, visitors could still watch the sunset at a lookout fully protected by railing. Quite a different experience. [2021]
One thing hasn’t changed: as long there is access to the sea there will be someone fishing. [2021]
As long as there is space to roam freely, the dogs would always be happy, and so as their owners. [2021]

DAY 2 (1/4): YEBISU GARDEN PLACE AND TOKYO PHOTOGRAPHIC ART MUSEUM, Ebisu (恵比寿), Tokyo, Japan, 2017.06.15

On the second day, we decided to stay close to the area around Shibuya.  We hopped on the Yamanote Line and went one stop over to Ebisu (恵比寿).  Known as the God of Fishermen and Luck, Ebisu is a popular divinity in Japanese mythology.  It was then used by Japan Beer Brewery Company to come up with the brand of Yebisu Beer back in 1890.  Established their production facilities near Meguro, Yebisu Beer is one of the oldest beer brand in Japan.  In the modern era, the train station and the surrounding community was named after the brewery as Ebisu.  In 1988, the beer brewery were moved to a new location.  The original brewery site at Ebisu was then transformed into a commercial complex consisted of office towers, retail, and museums known as the Yebisu Garden Place.  The Western architectural style create a unique atmosphere, attracting young couples and the local community to dine, shop and relax.

Many tourists go to Yebisu Garden Place to visit the Museum of Yebisu Beer.  We came specifically to visit Tokyo Photographic Art Museum (TOP Museum).  Opened in 1995, the museum is known as the only public museum in Japan dedicated to photography.  The museum has recently gone through two years of extensive renovations.  Three wall display of world famous photographs marked the museum entrance at the end of a  colonnade.  Three exhibitions were on and we opted to see them all.  The first one was “20 Year Anniversary TOP Collection: Scrolling Through Heisei Part 1”, a selection of works taken by Japanese photographers during the present Heisei era (平成).  The second was Museum Bhavan by Dayanita Singh, a renowned female photographer who captures the various faces and colours of the magnificently complicated Indian society.  The third was World Press Photo 17, the annual award event to compliment a selection of works by the world’s photojournalists in the past year.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Yebisu Garden Place offers a lot of pleasant public spaces for the community of Ebisu.

02Two traditional red brick buildings mark the entrance plaza of Yebisu Garden Place.

01Many people arrived at Yebisu Garden Place about the same time as we did, probably going to work.

05We arrived at Yebisu Garden Place in the morning at around 9am.  We had breakfast at one of the cafe near the entrance of Yebisu Garden Place.

5aThe interior of the cafe was causal and sleek.

03Across from the cafe, the Yebisu Beer Museum offers visitors a glimpse of the history of Japanese beer.  While a Mitsukoshi department store occupies the opposite side of the entrance square.

 

06A barrel vault atrium and a gentle ramp frame the central axis of Yebisu Garden Place, with the Chateau Restaurant Joël Robuchon at the terminus.

07We then walked under the canopy to the airy Central Square.

08The design of Yebisu Garden Place is dominated by classical layout and axial arrangement.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAClassical architectural elements include the colonnades that appear in a number of locations in the complex.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the Central Square, there were benches painted with playful patterns that marked the 20th anniversary of the complex.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYebisu Garden Place is frequented with locals.  We saw a few who came dressed in traditional garments.

11The Chateau Restaurant Joël Robuchon is a famous luxurious venue in the area of Ebisu.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur main reason coming to Yebisu Garden Place was the TOP Museum (Tokyo Photographic Art Museum), formerly known as the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography.

14The entrance colonnade of the TOP Museum offers visitors a pleasant approach.

15Shōji Ueda (植田正治)’s Sand Dune and My Wife III (妻のいる砂丘風景III) , an iconic Robert Capa’s D-Day shots, and Robert Doisneau’s Le baiser de l’hotel de ville (Kiss by the Hotel de Ville) provide a dramatic setting for the museum entrance.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe stayed at the museum for about two hours, seeing three exhibitions including “20 Year Anniversary TOP Collection: Scrolling Through Heisei Part 1”, Dayanita Singh’s Museum Bhavan, and World Press Photo 17.  The TOP Museum is a fantastic cultural institution for anyone who love photography.  It offers temporary exhibitions on four levels of museum spaces.