Fashion Cover Up – Leo Kwok

We know Leo Kwok for his wonderful street photography and after inviting him to be our current featured photographer we discovered his amazing ‘Fashion Cover Up Project ‘  and we wanted to know some more about it.


Can you give us a brief overview of what the project’s about?

Hong Kong’s air pollution is mainly caused by motor vehicles. There are about 306 licensed vehicles for every kilometer of road and they produce large amounts of particles and nitrogen dioxide which cause burning spasms; swelling of the throat; reduced oxygen intake and a larger buildup of fluids in the lungs — and in some cases death. You find people using such materials as facial masks, newspapers and tissue paper to cover their mouths and noses in order not to breathe in those harmful pollutants. We know that we cannot get rid of all the vehicles in the short run nor stay indoors forever. But wait! Let’s forget all the bad news for a while. Can we try to confront this issue positively and express the need to protect ourselves in a creative and fashionable way? In my Fashion Cover-up project, I invited five people with very different characters and occupations and created five unique outfits for them. The outfits serve both to protect and beautify the wearers. Instead of showing the sad and ugly side of air pollution, which everyone knows, I prefer to address this social issue in an alternative way, one that will arouse our government’s attention.


Tell us a little more about the incredible outfits created and what each one represents?

As I mentioned, I created 5 outfit for 5 different people. After I discussed with them, knew more about their job natures, what they did, where they went… I came up with these:



Facial Mask Gown -Silvia Cheng, Marketing Company Owner based in Central “My nose and mouth need a protective mask, so does my skin, which is the biggest organ exposed to Hong Kong’s polluted air. I can feel protected in this glamorous gown.”


‘Good Morning’ Brand Towel Cloak – Ah Wai, Street Photographer “Batman has a bullet-proof cloak, and I also need a cool-looking air pollution-proof cloak when I’m driving my motorbike or working outdoors. Now I feel like I’m a superhero too.”


Free Newspaper Skirt – Abby Au, Graphic Designer “I walk along busy roads every morning and usually have to collect a pile of free newspapers to cover my nose as the vehicles emit so much black smoke. This folded newspaper skirt works well, both functionality and aesthetically. I support recycling and support this outfit!”


Toilet Paper Roll Costume – Tung Tung and Yau Yau, Primary 1 Students “Our mother gives us tissue paper to cover our mouths when we go to school. Instead, we are always looking for something cute and interesting to replace it. This outfit is functional and looks lovely. We love it so much because we are big fans of Mickey and Minnie Mouse.”


Garbage Bag Suit – Kwan Jeh, Secondary School Cleaning Lady “I use the garbage bag to wrap around my head in order not to breathe in the toxic gas and substances. Now this full suit even protects my whole body.”


What made you choose to present the project in black and white also can you describe for us your studio set up and processing technique?

First of all, I think the form, shape and texture of those outfits are very important. I strongly believe B/W photo works better. Secondly, although the idea is a bit humorous, i don’t want people to think that it’s a secondary school craftwork project. Instead, i want to present it in a serious, professional and artistic manners. It should be more like a B/W high-fashion photography. I shot in RAW and did some contrast and tone enhancement in Photoshop and Silverefex Pro. One more thing i want to mention, the idea of the outfits and photography style, both are inspired by the Issey Miyaki Pleats Please Collection.
I have a tiny photo studio less than 300 sq ft with a very basic setup : 400W studio strobes x 3 and 150W studio strobes x 2, umbrellas, soft boxes, beauty dish….etc and etc.  For cameras, i have Canon 5D (just sold), Nikon DF & FE2 with 3 lenses, Pentax 645D with 4 lenses, Mamiya 6, Leica M240, M9 (just sold), M7, M4, M3, X2….. lenses: 90cron, 50 Noct, 50 lux, 35 Summaron, 28 elmarit, 21 elmarit and just buy a R 70-210 /4. I used M9 and 50 Noct with 4 studio strobes to take this set of photo. For street or documentary photography, i usually bring M240 with 50 lux and 21 elmarit, M7 with 28 elmarit ; HP5+400 or Tri-X 400 and X2. I am expecting the new Leica Monochrom : )

In one of our correspondences you said ‘Street photography is dessert, photo project is the main course”, what advice would you give to other photographers thinking about starting a project?

I always ask myself, “What’s the point to do this project?” If you think it’s meaningful to you or others, please go ahead. I have a life time project called “We are family” – record the significant moments of my kids and wifey, but not those typical family photos. I had a project called “Beautiful Strangers”, recorded the life of a tribe who lives in Yunnan, China, one of the poorest villages in the region. I believe some of the members here saw this set of photo in Leica Meet FB page. My motto is “To touch someone’s heart with photography”.

Where do you look for your inspiration?

Study the works of photographers, designers, artists I like, reading news everyday, watching movies and talking to different kinds of people.

Whats next for Leo Kwok?

I always want to improve myself and do better. As a photographer, I hope I could win an award in any significant international photo competitions like Leica Oskar Barnack Award, World Press Photo Contest….. I forget to say that people (even my friends)  think I’m a photographer. In fact I have been running my own branding design company and need to deal with my clients, staff, suppliers and all design works from 10am to 7pm everyday. Photography is just my serious hobby. I wish I could spend more time to take photos, travel and discover more new stories or one day it’s my second career.


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