Small enclosures line the room, leaving just enough headroom to sit up within the confined walls. Money is as tight as the spaces hidden among multimillion dollar high-rise apartments.
In 2009, Australia-based photographer Brian Cassey flew to Hong Kong, where he had discovered people were living in nothing more than cages because of dire economic conditions.
But nailing down the location of these caged dwellings proved to be harder than Cassey expected.
“The cage people are very well-hidden in dense, packed high-rise buildings,” Cassey said. “All cage homes are well-hidden behind several bolted doors.”
This set-up doesn’t come as cheaply as one might expect, either. Cassey said it costs about $200 a month to rent the space.
“No one wants to live here, but we need to survive,” a resident of one of these facilities told CNN in July. Mak, 72, works as a janitor at the nearby Times Square and said his living conditions are “a step up from being on the streets.”
Cassey said he was looking for a project that “had the prospect of making a difference by bringing the situation to light.”
With only two hours to spend with his subjects, there wasn’t much time to get personally involved with them. Instead, the British photographer tried to hide in the shadows and “be as unobtrusive as possible,” he said, adding that it was very difficult task to accomplish in the cramped space.
“The atmosphere was one of resigned but controlled despair,” he said. “From those few I talked to, they are resigned to their fate,” deeming it preferable to being homeless.
He found the situation “extremely depressing” but said he was impressed by the attitudes of many of the people living there.
“The cage home residents I met acted, despite their dire circumstances, with amazing dignity and grace,” he said.
- Elizabeth I. Johnson, CNN