Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Derek Shapton studied photography at Toronto’s Humber College, painting and drawing at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and philosophy and religion at the University of Toronto. Despite earning top marks in his studies, he quit school to pursue photography full time in 1998, and has since worked, as both a photographer and director, for a wide range of commercial, corporate, and editorial clients. His personal projects (including those of his Instagram alter-ego @thunder_pino), focus on documentary landscape work with an emphasis on urbanization and the built environment. He is particularly interested in tourism and it’s role as a mode of “new colonialism” — specifically the impact of visitors on landscapes both urban and rural.
Special Administrative Regions
The “Special Administrative Regions” of Hong Kong and Macau are unique political entities. Former Western colonies (English in Hong Kong’s case, Portuguese in Macau’s) they are heavily urbanized economic laboratories where China’s ongoing efforts to combine Western style free-market approaches with traditional Chinese autocratic policies can be seen in full effect.The images in this series are an examination of these areas as they walk a tightrope between east and west. Wandering through the regions during a period of inclement weather, I was struck by a seeming paradox; the heavily urbanized areas were seemingly devoid of people, and yet the impact and evidence of a huge population surrounded me on all sides. The acute sense of isolation I felt was almost post-apocalyptic, and seemed a poignant similie for the lives we lead as city dwellers in a post-globalized society. As areas in transition, culturally and economically, Hong Kong and Macau are distinct urban experiments. Lively centers of trade and culture, they are also melancholic time capsules of the colonial era. In this regard they serve as metaphors for the current state of urban life. How fulfilling is this kind of existence? How sustainable? As transformative cultural and economic currents swirl around us, those of us who live in cities confront these questions on a daily basis. The answers remain uncertain.
An examination of tourist sites during the off-season, the images in this series deal with the ways our attempts to tailor our environments can instead serve to distance us from them. The human urge to make adjustments to our surroundings seems to be almost irresistible, and the peculiar results speak volumes about our inability to leave things well enough alone. The extended implications of this are sobering. We are an innately meddling species, and this is reflected both in our personal environments and in our troubling impact on the “natural” world.
To view more of Derek Shapton’s work, please visit his website.