‘city poetry’ is romain jacquet-lagrèze’s most personal project to date, a photographic exercise that shows the artist further deepening his roots in hong kong and cantonese culture. he proposes stunning images and even a process through which a photographer might approach learning a language. taking advantage of hong kong’s bustling streets and bright signs, the collection includes a chromatic visual depiction of the cantonese language. 

‘nine dragons’, hong kong, 2019. nine times the character ‘dragon’ (龍) referring to the name of the continental part of the city: kowloon (九龍) meaning literally ‘9 dragons’.



jacquet-lagrèze set himself the task of documenting visually striking street signs and then took them home where his wife would help to translate. this art-to-language process slowly enabled him to decipher the characters that adorn his city’s streets. as his archive grew so did his knowledge, forming sentences with photographs of individual characters resulting in poems that sound poetic both lyrically and visually.

from left to right: ‘turning stone into gold’ (點石成金), ‘be original’ (有新意) and ‘hong kong culture’ (香港文化).



people designed these advertising signs to be informative and attractive, yet the photographer thinks the erosion transforms them into something more meaningful, by stripping off their utilitarian function. they now remind viewers of the impermanence of objects and become marks of the passing time, bringing yet a deeper meaning to the poetry found in the city.

left: ‘inspirational urge’ (勵行), hong kong, 2018 right: ‘love home’ (愛家), hong kong, 2018

’emotion shift’, hong kong, 2018. 2 times the character ‘heart’ (心), one is unplugged, the other one is shining vibrantly.

‘forgotten garden’, hong kong, 2019. the character ‘garden’ (園) is here being covered by plants taking over the past boundaries of the abandoned garden.

from left to right: ‘boundless happiness’ (福和東海), ‘objets d’art’ (精品) and ‘a hundred pains forge talent’ (百苦成材).



project info:


project name: ‘city poetry’

photography: romain jacquet-lagrèze



designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: cristina gomez | designboom