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The district of Kowloon, Hong Kong, is a crowded place—there are 124,000 people packed into each of its 18 square miles. Apartments can be amazingly small. The dearth of parks doesn’t help. So Kowloonians use whatever space they can find, often escaping to the tops of buildings to walk their dogs, hang laundry, or just take a catnap.
Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze is one of them—only he takes to the roof with his camera, documenting unsuspecting strangers on shorter buildings below. The images appear in his stunning new book Concrete Stories. “It’s daily life stuff, but it’s surprising to see it on the roof,” he says.
Jacquet-Lagrèze grew up in the suburbs of Paris, where people have yards and cars, and can even see the stars. He sacrificed it all for love, moving into a 200-square-foot apartment in Kowloon eight years ago to be with his wife. Now they have just 400 square feet to call their own, but Jacquet-Lagrèze doesn’t mind. The city is inspiring, its density enabling him to create series like The Blue Moment, photographed from rooftops.
While shooting, Jacquet-Lagrèze often glimpsed others who were also out and about atop other buildings. As development began transforming the cityscape, he worried these communal rooftops could disappear. “This part of the city is now surrounded by modern buildings, and bit by bit these old buildings are being destroyed and replaced by really big, tall buildings with locked rooftops,” he says.
This—coupled with his sheer curiosity about the neighbors—inspired him to document rooftop culture while it’s still around. Twice a week over the last four years, he rode an elevator up a highrise with his Sony DSLR and a couple zoom and telephoto lenses. He hunkered down near a ledge, munching on a snack as he waited for people to appear. In the golden afternoon light, he photographed Kowloonians as they jumped rope, watered their plants, even burnt offerings to their ancestors.
If spying on such tender moments of solitude sounds creepy, Jacquet-Lagrèze says it’s par for the course on Kowloon’s rooftops. While shooting the series, he sometimes glimpsed people higher up watching him. “Whenever you are on the rooftop in the open air, you know there are hundreds, if not thousands, of windows potentially looking at you,” he says.
Kowloon is ridiculously crowded, even up in the air.
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There is a little-watched and relatively obscure set of indicators produced by Thomson Reuters and Ipsos, called the primary consumer sentiment indexes. These provide a standardized approach to measuring consumer sentiment across a number of countries, and provide timely insight into consumer trends globally.
With the release of the May data this week I thought it would be good to take a quick look at the key trends in global consumer confidence (I have aggregated these indexes using GDP weights to provide a global as well as EM vs. DM view). Basically, global consumer sentiment has held up surprisingly well, which is a positive sign.
The key takeaways on the global consumer sentiment picture are:
-The global aggregate index of consumer sentiment strengthened in May.
-Global consumer sentiment held up well through the global equity market correction and actually strengthened vs. weakening seen in the manufacturing PMI.
-EM consumer confidence has been outperforming DM.
-Overall it supports a bullish global growth outlook.
1. Global Consumer Confidence vs. PMI and Global Equities: The May round of the Thomson Reuters/Ipsos consumer sentiment indexes (which I have aggregated based on IMF calculated PPP adjusted GDP weights), shows that globally the consumer is still doing well and if anything is going from strength to strength.
Interestingly, the global consumer confidence index held up well and actually strengthened through the global equity market correction and bucked the trend seen in the manufacturing PMI. So to my mind it is a nod to the underlying strength in the global economy.
2. Consumer Sentiment – EM vs. DM: Looking at the split between emerging vs. developed economies, the same picture of an apparent structurally different level (EM generally stronger) continued, but in terms of the signal, EM has continued its strengthening trend and in the month of May outperformed DM.
This one is also key as there has been some doubt around emerging markets as EM equities have seen substantial volatility and a reversal of previously hot fund flows.
Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.
I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.
Sennheiser has been at the apogee of the audio business for decades. When I was growing up, a pair of Sennheiser headphones was the aspiration of any knowledgeable audiophile. I recently had a chance to sit down with brothers Andreas and Daniel Sennheiser. They are the company’s co-CEOs; their grandfather founded the company 72 years ago.