With a population of nearly 7.5 million and very little developable land remaining, Hong Kong has become the least affordable housing market, making so-called ‘coffin cubicles’ common. United Nations have condemned these nightmarish cage-apartments as “an insult to human dignity” but according to the Society for Community Organization, for some 200,000 people it’s still the only alternative.
“That day, I came home and cried,” Benny Lam told National Geographic, describing his experience of photographing said living conditions. With his series “Trapped,” Lam seeks to illuminate the suffocating local dwellings that stand outside the reach of Hong Kong’s glamorous neon lights.
“You may wonder why we should care, as these people are not a part of our lives,” Lam wrote on his Facebook page. “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.”
“From cooking to sleeping, all activities take place in these tiny spaces,” said Lam. To create the ‘coffin cubicles,’ flats are usually illegally divided into 15 – 120-square-foot (roughly, 1,5-12 m²) ‘apartments’. To illustrate, Wong Tat-ming, 63, who 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.