Roni Ahn’s photography explores relationships and human connection

Away from London and in lockdown in Hong Kong, a new series sees the photographer reflect on our need for closeness and intimacy during hard times

Photographer Roni Ahn is currently based between Hong Kong and London and working on an array of personal and editorial projects for the likes of i-D, Document Journal, Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue HK. 

Ahn first got into photography when she borrowed her family’s point-and-shoot at around 13, where she would go around capturing her friends. “I brought my camera everywhere. If you ask my friends or teachers from school, I don’t think anyone would be surprised to hear that I became a photographer,” she says.

Lula Magazine. All images: Roni Ahn

Though photography was a passion, when it came to university Ahn initially studied civil engineering, and went on to do fashion communication for her masters. “The latter is more related to photography, but it was quite a broad course and I was working by then,” she explains. 

“Going to an art school to study photography is beneficial in that these schools can offer more resources and facilities for young artists to experiment and build connections, but I personally think that it might be useful to study something else – ideally something that could supplement your work later on. If you already have a vision and are creating your own work, I don’t think it’s necessary to study it formally.”

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Ahn describes her work as curious and she hopes it will prompt the viewer to ask questions. There’s an ethereal nature to her images, inspired by the books and movies she watched as a child. “When I’m working with multiple models, I also look for a certain flow between the subjects that I think defines my style,” she says. “I really like how I get to work on something different everyday. I think it’s also interesting working with clients who are not necessarily of a similar style to mine, but they allow me to inject my personal style to their image.”

Last year, Ahn returned to Hong Kong to visit family and work on some editorial projects but she soon found herself caught up in the citywide lockdowns, which prevented her from returning to London. Instead of feeling trapped, she decided to be inspired and embark on a new personal book project, which she is just about to self-publish. 

Cherry and Zac, The City and All it Holds
Eliza, The City and All it Holds

The City and All it Holds looks at youth in Hong Kong and the relationships they share with their most loved ones. “The idea came about during one of the mini lockdowns in Hong Kong, when gatherings of more than two people in public places were banned,” says Ahn. “In isolation, I began to think more about human connection and those closest to me, and wanted to translate this into a series of photographs.”

Ahn shot ten groups of individuals and their loved ones all around Hong Kong. “I shot them in areas that were of particular importance to their relationship,” the photographer explains. “Whether it was places that they grew up in, places they met, or places that they spent most time in.”

Kitman and Kuku, The City and All it Holds
Takuro and Hanna, The City and All it Holds

The result is a poetic tribute to close bonds and human connection, and for the photographer it feels like a true reflection of her time in Hong Kong and the people she’s met since returning to the city. 

“There’s not necessarily a deep rooted message that I’m trying to tell with each photograph, but I hope people recognise a part of themselves,” Ahn reflects. “Whether it’s related to their identity, relationships they’ve formed, locations that bring back memories, etc. I hope that [my images] make people feel.” 

The City and All it Holds is available to buy now;