Type “street in Hong Kong” into an image search, and you’ll encounter saturated scenes: brightly colored avenues illuminated with glowing signs and filled to the brim with people.
The photographer Bence Bakonyi sees things a little differently. His series, Segue, resulted from a six-month solo journey through China in 2014. He covered around 5,000 miles, starting in Shanghai. From there, he traveled to Mount Huangshan, then on to Lanzhou and the Taklamakan Desert-bordering Dunhuang, and finally to Hong Kong. He encountered the rural and the urban, the populated and the abandoned, gradually proceeding toward more man-made landscapes.
But one thing remains constant through the changing scenes: the absence of people. Bakonyi’s journey began with an invitation to an artist’s residency in the Xuhui district of Shanghai. He arrived in the country unable to speak the language. Completely on his own, he found it hard to navigate, and even harder to communicate with the people around him. His work, he says, reflects the process of trying to find his place in an unfamiliar world; he staged his photos without human subjects in order to allude to the isolating experience.
While the project was relatively straightforward in rural areas, like Mount Huangshan, the metropolises posed more of a challenge. Sometimes, Bakonyi tells CityLab, he would set up his camera and tripod and wait up to an hour for a street to clear before capturing the scene.
Bakonyi’s images offer an unusual vantage point: China seen not from the midst of the crowds, but completely apart from them. And though the photographer moves between radically different spaces within the country, his consistent perspective unifies the whole landscape in a way that’s undeniably unique and beautiful.