It's night in Greer Muldowney's photo. Bright lights illuminate cranes perched atop a row of skyscrapers in Hong Kong, all seemingly sprouting overnight, simultaneously.

The title of the Somerville photographer's show at Gallery Kayafas, "6,426 per km2," references Hong Kong's ranking as one of the world's most densely peopled metropolises. But she's wary of the critique in many photos of China's building boom — depicting astonishing development, environmental degradation, old neighborhoods flattened to make way for the new.

"There's a very Westernized perception. . . . It's very bleak. It's very gray," she says. "I just don't think that it's fair to say they're doing everything wrong . . . when they're just trying to emulate us."

For six months beginning in 2010, she documented the strata of the city's development — Chinese and colonial buildings of the 1950s and '60s stand amidst 1970s and '80s towers, which themselves are dwarfed by new skyscrapers. She records cheery colored facades and breathing space between towers, but her eye can't resist the relentless architectural geometry. Which blunts her fresh insights.

"Hong Kong and Kowloon Peninsula are growing up instead of out — like us," she notes. "They built this city to be as dense as possible to save more green space in the mountains."

GREER MULDOWNEY "6,426 PER KM2" :: Gallery Kayafas, 450 Harrison Ave, Boston :: Through February 16 :: 617.482.0411 or 

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  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Photography, Hong Kong, Kowloon,  More more >
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