Blair Sugarman on His Journey Photographing Beautiful HK


Photographer Blair Sugarman Tells His Journey on Capturing Hong Kong

Once a famed star on a mainland Chinese TV show, chatting about his love for Chinese poetry, food, and culture, Blair Sugarman is now known as a leading photographer in Hong Kong, redefining how the world sees our town.

He is an experimental photographer who leads the pack in the local photography scene in the city, capturing the best of Hong Kong’s gritty and defining street scenes and the heavenly aerial views of the city.

He joined The Beat Asia on a Zoom call to recount his journey holding a camera in the city and exposing the raw beauty of what Hong Kong has to offer. 

Photographer Blair Sugarman Tells His Journey on Capturing Hong Kong
Photo by Blair Sugarman

On vlogging in mainland China and landing a big TV show role

My [love] for photography came from my old days in China, shooting video and vlogging my life on the mainland. I made the transition to becoming a photographer, as I enjoyed the appeal of capturing a single, unique moment in time.

Seven years ago, I joined "A Bright World," a Chinese talk show where foreigners in China talk about their experiences living there, with the whole show shot and recorded in Mandarin Chinese. More than a dozen of us joined the show chatting about our personal experiences in China, which gave us all a good opportunity to develop a personality on the show beyond just "foreigners with the ability to speak Mandarin."

I would fly into Shanghai to film the show on weekends and return to my job in Hong Kong on Tuesdays. Whilst I enjoyed the experience, now I dedicate more time to my photography and full-time position as head of marketing at, a fintech company.

On developing a love for photography in Hong Kong

After the show ended in 2018, I needed a break from Asia, so I picked up a camera and went traveling. I was new to photography and, rather than spending some time getting familiar with the basics, I set off on my travels and spent a year or so taking some of the worst photos I’ve ever taken.

It was only after my return to Hong Kong that I put in the much-needed effort to learn both the basics and the theory behind what makes a good photo, as well as put some thought into my own personal style and brand of photography.

When I started out in photography, I know that I did it for the wrong reasons. With the popularity of social media platforms, it’s incredibly easy to get swept up into generating content for the sake of likes, rather than thinking about the deeper meaning behind why you want to make said content in the first place.

The question I encourage people to ask, (and continue to ask myself at numerous points in my photography journey), is "why"? Why are you taking those photos in the first place? What do you want from them? Is that reason today still consistent with the one you had when you started out?

Photographer Blair Sugarman Tells His Journey on Capturing Hong Kong
Photo by Blair Sugarman

On his obsession with shooting Hong Kong

I have two types of photography that I love but for very different reasons. I capture aerial and street photography. Aerial photography, because from a technical perspective, I like the planning and the effort that goes into getting a specific shot.

I like the science behind checking the weather, planning for a good sunrise or sunset, looking out the window and determining the best light in which to show off a particular location, checking wind speeds and rain forecasts. It’s all very scientific.

Street photography, my other passion, is completely different. Rather than an elevated, god-like view of a location that aerial photography gives, street photography is much more personal and intimate. It’s also very unplanned, and it relies on spontaneous moments.

There’s nothing better than being out with a camera at the right place and the right time and a particular event unfolds in front of you and you capture it perfectly.  

On the love and hate relationship with Instagram in the photography world

I understand [Instagram’s] uses in photography. My aspiration is to do something more with my photography. Hence, I call myself an experimental photographer. I want to do something that pushes the boundaries and distances myself from Instagram.

I know that I don't want to see the same thing from a thousand different people. I’d rather see something new or different from five people. If you’re going to a particular location at a particular time based on a photo or trend that you've seen on Instagram, you’re more likely to get the same results.

One of the ways to break from this cycle is to focus on niches and projects. If you devote your time and effort to capturing a specific niche and doing it on an extraordinary level with your own flair and style, you’re much more likely to get noticed.

Photographer Blair Sugarman Tells His Journey on Capturing Hong Kong
Photo by Blair Sugarman

On his favourite places to shoot in Hong Kong

There’s one area in Sheung Wan, where [labourers] push pallets of goods down the streets. I got probably one of my best photos ever when light hits just right with an older gentleman pushing away.

Hong Kong’s markets are unique and a great place to capture moments, particularly with Mong Kok and Lei Yue Mun, the way of life and the interactions people have.

I'm very unhappy with a lot of the photos I take, but I think most photographers are happy if they get like a 10% hit count - meaning if you take 100 photos, then 10 of them are usable.

Photographer Blair Sugarman Tells His Journey on Capturing Hong Kong
Photo by Blair Sugarman

On his future of a dedicated photography career in Hong Kong

It’s been a long journey and I’m aware that I'm still rounding out who I am as a photographer and what I want to do. This process has involved me revamping my website to focus on my own style of photos, and considering the niches that I operate in.

I’ve been focusing a lot more on my street photography, spending time out with my camera just observing the way that certain scenarios unfold.

As with most photographers, the aspiration is to showcase my work and tell the stories that exist behind each scene. I’d love to do more exhibitions around certain themes of people in Hong Kong, cities from above, bringing together years of photographic endeavours into a showcase.

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