Community & Education HKFP Lens

HKFP Lens: ‘Voyeur’ – Laura Simonsen’s black and white street photography

Hong Kong photographer Laura Simonsen eschews colour in some of her street portraits in favour of depicting the city in black and white.

Laura Simonsen street photography

Photo: Laura Simonsen.

Simonsen – whose exhibitions often feature themes of gender identity – describes herself as a “voyeur in the non seedy sense” when taking candid street photographs.

Laura Simonsen street photography

Photo: Laura Simonsen.

“I love people-watching with or without my camera,” she told HKFP. “I tend to zoom in a lot, which can be challenging when you’re trying not to be noticed.”

“I always have people in my shots, whether they are just a hint of a figure or hand… [the biggest challenge is] people noticing and looking at the camera when I think I have the perfect fly on the wall style shot.”

Laura Simonsen street photography

Photo: Laura Simonsen.

“People aren’t so friendly here when they realise they are having their photo taken! It’s not like being in India where everyone loves being in front of the camera,” she says.

Laura Simonsen street photography

Photo: Laura Simonsen.

Simonsen added that she chooses to shoot in colour or black and white based on the composition of her photographs.

Laura Simonsen street photography

Photo: Laura Simonsen.

“Colour works well if there are three hints of the same colour appearing in the photograph… Opposite colours also help to create a strong shot, i.e. hints of reds and hints of blues.”

Laura Simonsen street photography

Photo: Laura Simonsen.

“For black and white, often if the subject or the moment captured is against a bright colour or a busy background, it can be lost easily. When the photo is changed to [black and white] then the subject will ‘pop’ once the colour is lost.”

Laura Simonsen street photography

Photo: Laura Simonsen.

She adds that she prefers black and white when shooting repetitive or visually-confusing street images.

Laura Simonsen street photography

Photo: Laura Simonsen.

Find more of Simonsen’s work on her website and Instagram.

HKFP Lens: 'Voyeur' - Laura Simonsen's black and white street photography