At the start of the pandemic, Roni Ahn returned home to Hong Kong from London and began taking photos to document relationships of all types between people living in the city. Published as a book, The City and All It Holds, the resulting collection is understated, yet expressive, with a dreamlike quality that conveys the stasis of a global lockdown, and the connections that give support and stability in uncertain times. She describes the series as “an intimate reflection on human connection at a time when isolation is encouraged and sometimes mandated.”
Read more: 5 Asian Women on Beauty, Well-Being and Loving the Skin You're In
Ahn, now 24, began taking photos when she was 13 using the family's point-and-shoot film camera, which she carried around everywhere. She looks back on the photos from this time as a kind of diary from her teenage years: “The excitement I got from documenting all the seemingly insignificant moments when I was younger is probably the same kind of excitement I have when I get my rolls back from the lab after a long day of shooting.”
Her introduction to fashion photography came when she shot one of her best friends for an art project a decade ago. “I really fell in love with creating, and after the shoot I started reaching out to local modelling agencies and stylists, and it progressed naturally from there.” One of her most notable fashion shoots since is an East Asian “flower boys” series on changing perceptions of masculinity, influenced by the gender-neutral style of K-pop stars.
Below, in her own words, Ahn explains how she captured tender dynamics in her lockdown series and reflects on her experience as an Asian female photographer.
You're reading Through Her Lens, our series showcasing the female visual viewpoint—and launched in partnership with The Women's Foundation, which strives to challenge gender stereotypes, empower women in poverty, and increase the number of women in leadership roles
With the restrictions imposed in the city with meeting larger groups of people, I began to think a lot about those closest to me. Everyone was isolating in their own bubbles, and I wanted to translate this bizarre moment in time in a series of photographs. I began to photograph people in Hong Kong with those they consider to be their support system, be it a family member, friends, or lover. The close interaction and bond between the different groups of people in Hong Kong is what I wanted to capture for this project.
Logistically, it was quite challenging as we couldn’t shoot in a lot of public places without masks on. A lot of the subjects chose to be shot in residential areas (in the outskirts of the city) where they grew up or are currently living, which made things a little easier.
In case you missed: This Photographer Isn't Afraid to Confront Body Image and Loneliness