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Squatting amid the luxury hotels and malls of modern Kowloon, Chungking Mansions resembles the dirty vent of a giant subterranean machine. This Hong Kong landmark is a hotbed of criminality and home to pimps, hookers, thieves and drug pushers. The five 17-storey towers also offer the city's last low-rent refuge for asylum seekers and immigrants coming to start a new life. Nepalese guesthouse owners rent out rooms to Bangladeshi workers, and Pakistanis sell mobile phones to Nigerian traders who hire Indian cargo companies to ship them home. Food stalls fill the air with the savory aromas of international cuisine, and more than 200 guesthouses, as well as two floors of shops selling black-market, counterfeit and bargain goods, establish this unique place as a global hub of trade and multiculturalism. In 2009, shortly after a Canadian tourist disappeared from Chungking Mansions without a trace, photographer Nana Chen began wandering the corridors. Using her camera as a guide, she discovered the Chungking Mansions not visible to the naked eye: the beating pulse that gives this notorious destination its hypnotic appeal. With compassion and courage, Chen sought to craft a portrait of Hong Kong's last ghetto and its inhabitants before its vibrant character is erased forever by the inevitable march of progress.
About the Author
Taipei-born Nana Chen is more than just a photographer. A diverse upbringing in Taiwan, Argentina, Chile and the United States inspired her passions for architecture, design and music. Camera in hand, she seeks out the hidden melodies in everyday life. This approach is reflected in her recent works, including Hiraeth: Photographs of Chungking Mansions; Discarded, a still life series on demolished sites in Ho Chi Minh City; and From War Babies to Billionaires, a portrait series on Vietnam's ultra-rich women. Her work has been featured in Observer Magazine (UK), Gallery & Studio (NYC), Marie Claire (14 editions), la Repubblica (Italy), and many other publications. Nana divides her time between Vietnam, Thailand and Europe.