A South African street and commercial photographer based in Hong Kong, Gideon de Kock’s images feature a distinctive style. Through smart framing and composition, Gideon’s photographs elevate the banal and turn mundane objects into true art.
Playing fast and loose with his camera, Gideon’s wide-ranging style runs from confrontational and candid to detail-orientated, and always with a hint of philosophy and existentialism. His goal is to create sensitive, honest, and beautiful visual representations of Hong Kong.
Bamboo Scenes Artist Gideon de Kock, Hong Kong
What was your first camera? Which camera would you suggest for photographers that are just starting out?
My first camera was an Olympus Trip AF 35, which I got soon after entering high school. I only shot two rolls with it because I was far more interested in other outlets. My first real camera was the Olympus MJUII Zoom 80, which I received a few months after moving to Hong Kong.
As for recommendations, I recommend any camera you can get your hands on. In the early stages, you should be having fun just shooting and focusing on composition, and learning through limited parameters rather than being bogged down by choice of options.
What editing software do you like to use? Do you have any quick tips for editing photographs?
I use Lightroom, mainly. But I also work with Photoshop for specific digital work and SilverFast 8 if I'm scanning my own film negatives. In my experience, editing is incredibly subjective and far more prevalent with digital photography. Film scans from the lab are treated very subtly and only if necessary.
I would suggest learning from presets and just practicing. Push and pull sliders, learn about different film stocks, and learn not to rely on editing when starting out. Focus on composition and using your camera settings to get the right image.
What do you find the most challenging aspect of taking unique, interesting photos when traveling?
Not every locale is “exciting,” so I like to push creativity by exploring ways of elevating and representing the subject matter. “Challenging” might not be the right word here, but it’s also important to not forget to really consider your subject matter in places you may not be familiar with culturally.
"The Old Man and The Birds" Artist Gideon de Kock - Yuen Po Street Bird Garden, Hong Kong
What inspires your photography?
Appreciation, love, respect, empathy, and a healthy dose of just trying to make sense of it all.
What photographers have influenced your style the most? What do you like about them?
I really learnt without much outside influence in the beginning as I knew nothing about what was being shot or who shot it. I was never consciously emulating. Later, artists like Nikita Teryoshin, Martin Parr, Vivian Maier, Igmirien, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Bruce Gilden, Feng Li, and Michelle Groskopf all influenced me to a degree. I just see a level of bravery and a sense of flavor that is unique and inspiring.
How is your personality reflected in your work?
Though the exterior is full of joy and love for the people and world around me, my mind can be pretty all over the place, and oftentimes, I feel like a literal alien. I guess these aspects of my personality use photography as a means to focus my energies to search for a form of definition. Skewed angles and particular framing are all there to ask a variety of questions, to really try to flip and challenge any preconceived world views I might have.
What does Hong Kong mean to you and your photography?
If it wasn’t for Hong Kong, I don’t believe I would’ve ever stumbled upon photography and as a result, I have an incredibly soft spot for the city. It really helped connect me to the community and the place, exposing myself to the hope and despair, joy and fear, progress and regression that the city has been through since my arrival.
If it wasn’t for Hong Kong, I don’t believe I would’ve ever stumbled upon photography and as a result, I have an incredibly soft spot for the city.
"Mong Kok Casualty" Artist Gideon de Kock - Mong Kok, Hong Kong
What advice would you give to today's young aspiring photographers?
Take photos of life. Take photos of the moments in between. Let it help connect you with yourself and the world around you, and let it give you a deeper understanding of your place in it. And have fun!
What are your photography goals for 2021?
I want to start shooting more for myself again, to continue observing and being present, and representing and exposing how beautiful everything can be.
Why did you choose Bamboo Scenes to showcase your artwork?
Bamboo Scenes accepted me and allowed a form of work and representation I don’t often see in Hong Kong. They really just let me do my thing. I think they have a real love for this city, and we’ve always aligned on that.
"Pink" Artist Gideon de Kock - Tai Kok Tsui, Hong Kong
What is your favorite photography from your collection at Bamboo Scenes?
One of my favourite pieces is “Pink”. Everything just came together really beautifully for me here, and there is a lot of subtle meaning in the context of the “when” and “where”.
What do you look for when making photos?
I’m looking for alternative views of beauty, essentially. I try to challenge our conditioning to what we think is a “good” or “great” photograph. I like representing pieces and parts of one's day that don’t often get the credit they’re due. Empathy, presence, and true mindfulness is key.
"Change" Artist Gideon de Kock - Yau Ma Tei, Hong Kong
You primarily shoot in film. Why is this?
Film was my introduction and initial exposure to photography, so perhaps I have somewhat of an allegiance here. The nature of film is alive, and it’s often full of surprise and inconsistency—a tangible, “imperfect” quality.
You're South African originally. How has your background influenced your view of Hong Kong and how you capture it with your camera?
For a multitude of unfortunate economic, historical, and sociopolitical reasons, we never grew up to be as privileged as Hong Kong regarding perceived safety. Acclimatising to this new-found freedom of movement was quite liberating and thought-provoking. Being able to explore so readily, seemingly without consequence, really gave me a platform to pursue and develop more subtle forms of photographic representation in my work. South Africa in comparison was far more isolated compared to such a bustling international hub like Hong Kong, so being able to approach it with such a pair of fresh eyes was a very stimulating experience.
Bamboo Scenes Photography Artist Gideon de Kock - Hong Kong
Check out Gideon’s full Bamboo Scenes collection here!