Christian Åslund

Introducing the Chinese metropolis of Honkey Kong.

The Romans tried to imitate the sculpture of the Greeks; Christian Aslund is attempting to resurrect the aesthetic of 80's video games.

Aslund, a photographer in Sweden, has channeled the side-scrolling levels of Super Mario Bros. et al. in the most difficult way imaginable: by photographing real-life models from the top of Hong Kong skyscrapers. He calls the series: "Honkey Kong."

"We wanted to shoot it live on location in Hong Kong," he wrote in an email. "The feeling of the images being shot in the field is more authentic and very difficult to resample in the studio." So, after pitching the concept as a campaign for the shoe company Jim Rickey, he traveled to Hong Kong with a small production team.

Getting the shots proved more difficult than he had thought when visiting a local rooftop with a friend a few months earlier. To overcome the language barrier, the team hired a couple of Cantonese speakers. Finding and accessing rooftops was also a challenge. All scouting, location testing and shooting took place in just four days.

By using a telephoto lens from great heights, Aslund manages to flatten the scenes, strengthening the visual link to 2D games in an urban context that's more GTA than Donkey Kong. Instead of hiring models, he used crew members in the photos, with whom he communicated by walkie-talkie, helping them fine-tune their poses.

"It was possible to create the feeling of the model being the player's alter-ego, the character, and the actual image would be the player's perspective," he says. "We've all been up on a higher point looking down, but perhaps not thought of it in that way."

Speaking into his walkie-talkie, Aslund could also inform the models of the risks of oncoming traffic -- they were often lying in the middle of busy streets. And this was not, after all, a video game.

All images courtesy of Christian Aslund.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Equity

    What's the Matter With San Francisco?

    The city’s devastating affordability crisis has an unlikely villain—its famed progressive politics.

  2. Life

    How Australia Conquered Guns, and Why America Can't

    Gun control advocates point to Australia for inspiration in ending gun violence. The Australian Ambassador to the United States, Joe Hockey, thinks they should stop.

  3. Equity

    The Wakanda Reader

    Everything you wanted to know about Wakanda and urbanism, but were afraid to ask.

  4. Equity

    When America's Basic Housing Unit Was a Bed, Not a House

    The same cities that struggle to provide affordable housing today eliminated their critical-but-maligned flexible housing stock after World War II.

  5. Transportation

    The Geography of Car Deaths in America

    The U.S. is a nation divided not just by how people get around, but by how fast they drive.