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Neon Memories

Terry Mclaughlin


Behind the Shot

After World War II, as Hong Kong returned to British rule and the nation quickly recovered from the brutal Japanese wartime occupation, the population of the island swelled from 600,000 to 2.1 million. As mainland China’s Communist Party tightened restrictions, laborers and refugees, as well as wealthy farmers and capitalists, found new opportunities in Hong Kong. By the late 1950s, the island had become a hotspot for manufacturing, investment and trade.

As Hong Kong became more commercial and consumerist, neon signs quickly covered the faces of previously unadorned building fronts. Colorful animated signs in English and Cantonese competed for attention as business owners constructed more and more elaborate designs. With loose regulation, and seemingly unlimited budgets, the neon signs became a chaotic nighttime collage of color and movement. It was not uncommon for the signs to extend far over the streets. Some of the busiest.