Stall selling Grass Carp on Nelson Street, Mongkok, Hong Kong

Discovering Nelson Street

This is Nelson Street…

Hong Kong - Nelson Street
HONG KONG, MONGKOK – AUGUST 22, 2014: Scenes and street life along Nelson Street, one of Hong Kong’s wet markets selling fresh fish and seafood, in Mongkok, Hong Kong on August 22, 2014. (Photo by Rogan Coles)

Which Nelson Street and where?

Discovering Nelson Street? Which Nelson Street and where? Here I’m referring to Nelson Street in Mongkok, Hong Kong. Nelson Street here is a street and it isn’t. If Nathan Road, the main road in the area, lies on the North/South axis then, Nelson Street traverses Nathan Road East to West. Well, it’s more or less cut up by Nathan Road and several other streets running parallel to Nathan Road. You could say Nelson Street is more of a walk way than it is a drive way. In the section to the East of Nathan Road, Nelson Street is fairly inane and non-descript – enough to say that not much happens along that road way expect, that it traverses quite a busy section of Mongkok’s commercial district [not seen here].

Hong Kong - Nelson Street
HONG KONG, MONGKOK – NOVEMBER 7. 2016: Customers making purchases at a fishmonger’s stall on Nelson Street in Mongkok, Hong Kong on November 7, 2016. (Photo by Rogan Coles)

The most interesting part of Nelson Street is located between the West Kowloon Corridor [a major motorway to the west] and Reclamation Street and, more so, the section that stops at Canton Road. This is the location of one of the better known wet markets in Hong Kong.

Wet markets?

“Wet market”? Well, that’s something of a general euphemism for a market selling fresh produce. But here, on this little stretch of road, it is just that, a wet market and one renown for its fresh fish and seafood selection.

Weighing fish using a beam balance
HONG KONG – DECEMBER 01: A fishmonger weighs a purchase using a beam balance taken at the Nelson Street wet market in Mongkok, Hong Kong on December 1, 2014. (Photo by Rogan Coles)

There are other wet markets around Hong Kong – as in a lot of them and most selling much the same thing. If you’re into seafood and you’re underwhelmed and found wanting by what you find here, then perhaps head out to a place like Lei Yi Mun. But then, the markets there are typically part of a dining experience – as in buying your produce and then, having the restaurant there doing the cooking for you.

Much the same can be said for Sok Kwu Wan on Lamma Island or Peng Chau or even Cheung Chau. But, let’s come back to Nelson Street. Here the fish stalls cater specifically for home cooking, the “do it yourself” experience. And, the produce here is some of the best in town.

Hong Kong - Nelson Street
HONG KONG, MONGKOK – NOVEMBER 7. 2016: Customers making purchases at a fishmonger’s stall on Nelson Street in Mongkok, Hong Kong on November 7, 2016. (Photo by Rogan Coles)

What’s there to “discover” on Nelson Street?

So, what’s there to discover here on Nelson Street? Well, for a start, life itself. This is Hong Kong through and through. “Discovering” anything here is largely a “passive experience”. You don’t have to go far. In fact and better still, just find a quiet corner somewhere and let life come to you. Let it “unfold” if you will.

Hong Kong - Nelson Street
HONG KONG, MONGKOK – AUGUST 22, 2014: Customers making purchases at a fishmonger’s stall on Nelson Street in Mongkok, Hong Kong on August 22, 2014. (Photo by Rogan Coles)

One of my favourite “hang outs”, for want of a better term, is a stall selling Grass Carp [in the picture below]. The stall is sequestrated – hidden away – in a back alley just off Nelson Street. I’ve spent quite a bit of time around here observing, just watching “life unfold”. I’m not sure how else to put it?

Yes, we all tend to see just about everything as a sequence, as part of a continuum and perhaps paying little if any attention to all the small incidentals that may be packed into any such sequences. That is, until someone puts a frame around such moments. Do those moments mean anything? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Hong Kong - Nelson Street
HONG KONG, MONGKOK – AUGUST 22, 2014: Customers at a fishmonger’s stall selling freshwater Grass Carp on Nelson Street in Mongkok, Hong Kong on August 22, 2014. (Photo by Rogan Coles)

From a photographer’s point of view, what more can I say? I mean, what more can I offer?

Other than the moments presented here, there are no other determinants that are of much consequence. I don’t go out or think to myself, “OK, today, I’m looking for this” or for that or the other. Or that, I’m going to make this or that kind of picture. Or, “I’m going to show the world” this, that or the other.

The head stuff I leave behind. I don’t need it. It’s the moment or, a combination of them, that matters. I have enough troubles going on in my life otherwise – I don’t need to bring them here to have them cloud my views, my sensibilities, for want of a better word.

If there are any agendas here, they’re likely to be with the viewer and what they maybe thinking.

Hong Kong - Nelson Street
HONG KONG, MONGKOK – NOVEMBER 7. 2016: Customers making purchases at a fishmonger’s stall on Nelson Street in Mongkok, Hong Kong on November 7, 2016. (Photo by Rogan Coles)

Why do I take these pictures?

Why do I take these pictures? What’s their value? If the truth be told, I don’t really know. I mean, I would have really loved to have asked Hieronymus Bosch or Pieter Bruegel much the same questions when they were out there painting their crowd scenes and how come or, why they included this or that. Here, on the street, things just unfold and evolve – a moment in time. A moment in a sequence of events.

In terms of camera technique, again I don’t really know. The gear I was using is what I had. Well, all I had. The black and white and/or colour thing – usually, I don’t even thinking about it. If I’m shooting digital, it’s always going to be colour. Fruitling and faffing around whether a certain image might be better in black and white or whatever – I don’t have time to waste. If I’m shooting film, it’s one or the other – the choice here is deliberate and, my instincts will adjust accordingly. The choice more or less dictated how and what I shot.

With digital, here today and gone tomorrow. Well, it feels that way sometimes but no, there’s more to it than that.

Lens choice? With digital, zooms lenses all the way. Where I shoot – as on location here on Nelson Street – and the way I shoot, I don’t have the time or inclination to get sweet with primes. Who cares about F/2 or F/1.4? At the time of my induction into photography, it was 800 ASA ,1/30th of a second at F/5.6 – as in remainable light. Little else mattered much. The same now. Why let the technology get in the way of a good shot?

That said, I am open to exploring and experimenting with the medium – well, the technology. At the moment I am really excited about the work of Ashraful Arefin. His use of light and shallow depth field intriques me to no end – truly inspiring. Check out his work on Behance.

So, that’s just a little bit about Nelson Street for you.

Did you learn anything for this little tour – or, detour for that matter? Feel free to comment below. If you’re interested, more pictures can be found at this photo gallery link – NELSON STREET – MONGKOK.

If you like what you’ve found here, feel free to check out the other blog posts in this series of “Hong Kong street guides”.


TECHNICAL NOTES: Most of the images taken here were with a Fujifilm X-T1 capture device and a FUJINON XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS lens.


FEATURED WORK: Rogan’s work is featured on the following websites:


You can find out more about Rogan and why he does what he does here on his ‘Artist’s Statement’ page.

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