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HKFP Lens: Thien-Ty Ly snaps a view of China’s past through the lens of the present

French photographer Thien-Ty Ly has shared with HKFP his Chinese photography series Live in Alley.
Ly was born in Hà Tiên – a small town in the Vietnamese province of Kiên Giang – and is of Chinese descent. He grew up in France and previously lived in China before settling in Hong Kong.
lilong Thien-Ty Ly

Chapter 1 – Lilong. Shanghai, China, 2007-2010. Photo: Thien-Ty Ly.

Live in Alley provides an intimate glimpse into local Chinese communities.
lilong Thien-Ty Ly

Chapter 1 – Lilong. Shanghai, China, 2007-2010. Photo: Thien-Ty Ly.

Ly told HKFP that the series aims “to capture spontaneity” within the communities.
lilong Thien-Ty Ly

Chapter 1 – Lilong. Shanghai, China, 2007-2010. Photo: Thien-Ty Ly.

The series captures “hutong,” narrow alleys in Beijing, “lilong,” long lanes connecting terraced houses in Shanghai, “tongli,” canals in Jiangsu, and Xiguan – a historic area in Guangzhou.
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Chapter 2 – Tongli. Jiangsu, China. Photo: Thien-Ty Ly.

Ly – a practising architect – told HKFP that photography reminds him of the many qualities of architecture that touch the heart.
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Chapter 2 – Tongli. Jiangsu, China. Photo: Thien-Ty Ly.

Ly told HKFP that he is interested in photography that combines social commentary with an individual artistic style; landscapes that indicate history, while also hinting at “a future yet to come.”
Tongli Thien-Ty Ly

Chapter 2 – Tongli. Jiangsu, China. Photo: Thien-Ty Ly.

Ly told HKFP: “‘Live in Alley’ is aimed at captur[ing] the atmosphere, lifestyle and community of one of the most iconic architectural urban fabrics in China.”
tongli Thien-Ty Ly

Chapter 2 – Tongli. Jiangsu, China. Photo: Thien-Ty Ly.

“This series [is] intended above all as a testament to a traditional past, a non-city dwellers neighbourhood atmosphere, and a place of remembrance,” he told HKFP.
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Chapter 3 – Hutong. Beijing, China, 2007-2012. Photo: Thien-Ty Ly.

Ly said that he believes the nostalgic alleys are being demolished to make way for metropolises.
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Chapter 3 – Hutong. Beijing, China, 2007-2012. Photo: Thien-Ty Ly.

“Community living will be redefined with the rapid development of modern China…” he said.
hutong Thien-Ty Ly

Chapter 3 – Hutong. Beijing, China, 2007-2012. Photo: Thien-Ty Ly.

“Houses mainly [house] working class people, [who are] materialistically defined as poor. The living condition of the past by today’s standard is known to be tightly spaced, unsanitary and deprived of basic resources,” Ly told HKFP.
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Chapter 3 – Hutong. Beijing, China, 2007-2012. Photo: Thien-Ty Ly.

“Walking through the alleys, the feeling of friendliness and happiness of the community shines above all, the place gives a strong sense of community.”
Xiguan Thien-Ty Ly

Chapter 4 – Xiguan. Guangzhou, China, 2010. Photo: Thien-Ty Ly.

“Amongst the advancement of the country, the [improvement] of community living remains a huge leap and affects people at different levels,” he added.
Xiguan Thien-Ty Ly

Chapter 4 – Xiguan. Guangzhou, China, 2010. Photo: Thien-Ty Ly.

Xiguan Thien-Ty Ly

Chapter 4 – Xiguan. Guangzhou, China, 2010. Photo: Thien-Ty Ly.

Visit Ly’s website here. Follow him on Instagram here.

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HKFP Lens: Thien-Ty Ly snaps a view of China's past through the lens of the present