With a population of approximately 7.5 million and very little developable land, Hong Kong is the least affordable housing market today, making so-called ‘coffin cubicles’ common. The UN has condemned those nightmarish cage-apartments as “an insult to human dignity.” According to the Society for Community Organisation, however, for some 200,000 people it remains the only alternative.
“That day, I came home and cried,” Benny Lam said, describing his experience of photographing living conditions. With his photographic series “Trapped,” Lam aims to illuminate the suffocating local dwellings which stand out of the reach of Hong Kong’s glamorous neon lights. As Lam wrote on his Facebook page:
“You may wonder why we should care, as these people are not a part of our lives. They are exactly the people who come into your life every single day: they are serving you as the waiters in the restaurants where you eat, they are the security guards in the shopping malls you wander around, or the cleaners and the delivery men on the streets you pass through. The only difference between us and them is [their homes]. This is a question of human dignity.”
In order to create the ‘coffin cubicles,’ flats are illegally divided into 15 – 120-square-foot (roughly, 1,5-12 m²) ‘apartments.’ To illustrate, Wong Tat-ming, 63, that is on benefits after sclerosis in his leg left him unable to drive a taxi, lives in an 18-square-feet dwelling for about $307 (HK$2,400) a month.