A couple shares an embrace while checking their phones at the "Instagram Pier" in Hong Kong.
A couple shares an embrace while checking their phones at the "Instagram Pier" in Hong Kong.
Photograph by Pierfrancesco Celada

Welcome to Hong Kong’s ‘Instagram Pier’

An ordinary cargo dock has become an urban backdrop for selfies, portraits, and endless creativity.

On the west side of Hong Kong Island, on the waters of Victoria Harbor, is a pier that has become much more than just a pier. Every day, from sunrise to sunset, young people gather with their friends, props and selfie sticks to take portraits against the pier’s cargo pallets, shipping bollards, and standing pools of water.

The pier, known officially as the Western District Public Cargo Working Area, has an industrial background that lends well to photos, and particularly ones that garner likes on Instagram. Italian photographer Pierfrancesco Celada, who lives in Hong Kong, walked by one day and noticed the pockets of people scattered all over the pier taking photos, some as silly as jumping selfies, and in other areas, official wedding photos.

Day after day, one theme emerged. Everyone was taking the same images others already had, trying to reimagine, sometimes exactly, the poses they had already seen online. “People return to the pier to create and re-create very similar imagery,” says Celada. “A constant repetition of poses and situations is played out by a never-ending supply of interchangeable actors.”

Hong Kong city officials have tried at times to limit access to the pier, citing safety concerns in an area designed for industrial cargo operations and not for people, say, exercising, walking their pets, and taking selfies. But creativity has been challenging to tame. After Celada made a photo series of people on their pier, he went a step more meta and created a new Instagram account for the Instagram Pier, @insta_pier, to curate other people’s photos from the area. He updates the stream several times a day.

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