A good way to lose your passion for the thing you love is to do it for money. That’s what Harold de Puymorin found after he started working as a professional photographer. So, in 2019, he decided to rekindle his creative spirit by taking a 35mm film camera, loading it with black and white film, and hitting the streets. “I wanted to grab the camera and rediscover the joy of taking photos,” he says. “Just to get back to basics, grab my camera and wander around.”
The result was a street photography project called 35mm Diaries. Camera in hand, Puymorin roamed around the city, no destination or goal in mind, just shooting whatever struck his fancy. “You see something and you don’t know why, but you have to take a picture of it,” he says. “I think you should shoot with your guts and then take time to look at your past and figure out what you’ve done. That’s when you find out what your style is.”
Using film influences the way he works. “I never really smash a roll of film in one go,” he says. “I load a roll in my camera and it takes maybe two or three months to finish it. With film you slow down, you pay a little bit more attention to what you take. I like not having direct feedback. The effect of surprise is multiplied.”
The photos that have resulted from Puymorin’s wanderings range from candid shots of ordinary Hongkongers going about their daily lives, to high-contrast compositions that play with light and shadow in a way that brings to mind the work of the late Fan Ho.
But the images aren’t meant to stand alone. “I’m trying to push a little bit more the side of the storytelling,” says the photographer. He decided to pair each shot with a partner, teasing out narratives — some more evident than others — from the many photos he has made. “I took all my rolls of black and white and taped it on my wall like a massive mood board. Then I stood back and saw that this one and that one had something similar, so I moved them closer together.”
The first round of images he selected ended up in a zine, Echoes. He planned to do more, but then the pandemic hit. Worried about the precarity of his work in the face of Covid-related shutdowns and restrictions, he leaned hard into commercial photography. “I basically didn’t do any personal work,” he says.
Now he is finally returning to his passions. He is revamping his website and hoping to do a gallery exhibition in the near future. “I’m doing a lot more abstract photography mixing architecture and nature,” he says. But he also plans to return to 35mm Diaries and produce another zine, this time in colour. (For the previous zine, he chose black and white film on a whim, he says.)
With that in mind, we asked Puymorin to put together five pairs of images from Echoes and share some thoughts with us. Here’s what he chose.
“This pairing is more about composition and timing, finding some interesting contrasts and waiting for an extra element to nourish the image. I like the leading lines and feel these two shots work nicely together.”
”Street food in Hong Kong. As it is well known, some of the best dishes are served directly on the street! Two simple plastic stools and one man cooking, all you need is good company.”
“Smoking kills! Looking back at my images, I stumbled upon these two shots that are fun to pair. While the young student is pinching his nose and looking straight at the camera and the other guy is smoking asking, ‘What the hell do you want?’”
“Generation gap. A picture tells a thousand words – well, here you go. A bunch of young blooded kids stuck on their phones versus elderly reading [the] newspaper.”
“”The umbrella, under the striking sun or the heavy rain, remains the best accessory in Hong Kong!”