Michael Wolf — Informal Seating Arrangements & Bastard Chairs & Multiples

Michael Wolf was born in Germany but he is a photographer who bases in Hong Kong. He has three pieces of photographic work which are based on chairs. They are ‘Informal Seating Arrangements’ & ‘Bastard Chairs’ & ‘Multiples’.

Chairs is definitely a daily object and also a universal object. It is not only a kind of an epitome of the living condition of the locals but also reflects the trace of life. Wolf notes, ‘the chairs themselves, as well as looking visually fascinating, portray the thriftiness and conscious efforts of the Chinese to never let materials go to waste.’. Although three of his chairs’ works seems like shoot without a purpose, he uses photography and through the camera to observe the society, discover and experience the hidden life of these concrete constructions.

Bastard Chairs

Bastard Chairs (Source: Michael Wolf, 2002)

For one of the project, ‘Bastard Chairs’, It is a project documenting the DIY chairs that people left in the backstreets and ally-ways in Hong Kong and China. Those chairs were repeatedly repaired by any available materials that people can find from daily life. Such as bricks, ropes, old linens, buckets etc. Each chair suggests something about its maker and it has its own character. He used a western perspective to observe the Asian contemporary phenomenon in a non-critical way. This series of work broke our traditional sense and impression of chairs.

Informal Seating Arrangements

Hong Kong Informal Seating Arrangements (Source: Michael Wolf, 2014)

Below is video of Michael Wolf talking about what he sees in the backstreets of Hong Kong.

LINK: http://orientaldaily.on.cc/cnt/lifestyle/20160127/00321_001.html

‘When I get tired sometimes, and then I go into a back alley and I look for a chair. I sit there, because is quiet, no one bother me.’. Wolf said it in the interview. (Oriental Daily, 2016)

In ‘Hong Kong Informal Seating Arrangements’, Michael Wolf turned the focus to back streets that were forgotten by the people of Hong Kong. He captured a different kind of ‘chairs’ that placed by people in backstreets; plastic chairs, wicker chairs, armchairs, stools, bar stools, office chairs etc. Old and new, whole, broken, rebuilt and repaired. From the appearance of each chair, it reflects the wisdom of the people in Hong Kong. Also, represent a kind of frugal spirit. Although I am a Hong Konger, I never walk into those back alleys. As in my impression, backstreets are in poor health conditions, very damp and dirty. I think this is one of the reasons why I feel admire while I first saw Wolf’s works. When a chair is vacant, it shows a kind of emptiness and makes people want to know the story about the chair and also the owner.


In this series, Michael Wolf has shown his work in category photography. Not only ‘Bastard Chairs’, he also did with other series, ‘bicycle seats’, ‘factory workers’, ‘hong kong flora’, ‘architecture of density’, ‘tokyo compression’, ‘hong kong earth gods’, ‘hong kong corner houses’, ‘100 x 100 shep kip mei’ and ‘carriers’ (for more details, please go to visit his website: http://photomichaelwolf.com/#multiples/1).

Bastard Chairs & Bicycle seats (Source: Michael Wolf, 2017)

They all have the same characteristic in each image, even though it is very crowded, it presents in order within chaos. It has a kind of magic to make people want to have a good look on each of the grid.

His work has inspired me on the whole idea of the project, capture and collects cafe’s chair by using photography, use photographs to present something people might overlook in daily life.

P.S. Wolf reports that the police detained him twice during the photographing of the series ‘Bastard Chairs’ for “doing something which was harmful to the Chinese state. Actually, I got the same problem when I went into a famous worldwide cafe. The staff won’t allow me to take any picture in the shop. They didn’t tell me the reason and just said ‘NO!’ when I asked for their permission to take photograph. I kept going on despite there were some difficulties during the process. I went to visit many cafes as many as I can to collect a different kind of cafe chairs. Therefore, I will have enough choices for me to create a series.


Ball, S. (2016). MICHAEL WOLF: COLLECTING HONG KONG. Available: http://zolimacitymag.com/michael-wolf-collecting-hong-kong/. Last accessed 18th Feb 2017.

Kong, W.Y. (2016). Michael Wolf攝人的後巷. Available: http://orientaldaily.on.cc/cnt/lifestyle/20160127/00321_001.html. Last accessed 16th Feb 2017.

Michael Wolf (2014) Hong Kong Informal Seating Arrangements. [Photograph] Retrieved from: http://photomichaelwolf.com/#informal-seating-arrangements/1

Michael Wolf (2002) Bastard Chairs. [Photograph] Retrieved from: http://photomichaelwolf.com/#bastard-chairs/1

Michael Wolf (2017) Bastard Chairs & Bicycle seats. [Photograph] Retrieved from: http://photomichaelwolf.com/#multiples/1

Peperoni Books. (2017). Hong Kong Informal Seating Arrangements.Available: http://peperoni-books.de/hk_seats_eng.html. Last accessed 18th Feb 2017.

Zhang,M. (2012). Sitting in China: A Series of Photographs Showing “Bastard Chairs”. Available: https://petapixel.com/2012/10/19/sitting-in-china-a-series-of-photographs-showing-bastard-chairs/. Last accessed 16th Feb 2017.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Karen Chhui’s story.