Photographer Michael Wolf, chronicler of Hong Kong’s high-density living, dies

Written by Stephy Chung, CNNEmily Dixon, CNN

Michael Wolf, the German-born photographer renowned for chronicling life in the world’s biggest metropolises, died this week at the age of 64. His most famous work depicted the towering architecture of Hong Kong, where he lived and worked.

Wolf, who was born in 1954 and grew up in the US and Canada, moved to Hong Kong in 1994, where he initially worked as a photojournalist. Shifting focus to his own projects in 2003, his most expansive series, “Architecture of Density,” saw him document the city’s dizzying structures between 2003 to 2014.

Wolf photographed his most famous series, "Architectural Density," between 2003 and 2014.

Wolf photographed his most famous series, “Architectural Density,” between 2003 and 2014. Credit: Michael Wolf

He went on to capture the extremes of rush hour in Japan’s capital in “Tokyo Compression,” and the everyday creativity of Hong Kong’s residents in “Informal Solutions.”

“You see this incredible example of urban anthropology — dozens of seating arrangements from repurposed broken chairs, rolls of string that have been collected so they can be reused another day,” he told CNN of the latter. “It shows the ingenuity of the normal people of Hong Kong.”

Wolf published over 30 photo books in his life time; "Architectural Density" became a best-seller.

Wolf published over 30 photo books in his life time; “Architectural Density” became a best-seller. Credit: Michael Wolf

For his latest series, “Cheung Chau Sunrises,” Wolf photographed sunrises every day for two years on the Hong Kong island where he lived.

“He was very interested in life and cities overall, not just Hong Kong. But Hong Kong was his biggest muse,” Sarah Greene, the director of Hong Kong’s Blue Lotus Gallery who worked with Wolf, told CNN.

“It’s now very difficult to do something original in Hong Kong,” she added. “Now it looks like a Michael Wolf picture because the way he photographed Hong Kong is the way people perceive Hong Kong.”

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