Take 5 with... Ugo di Mauro

Portrait image of Ugo di Mauro

Welcome to WOMB's weekly "Take 5 with..." series. Roughly once a week we will feature a short interview with a HK-based conscious personality.

Very happy to introduce you to our first guest: Ugo di Mauro!

1. Tell us a bit about yourself, where are you from, where did you study, and what brought you to Hong Kong?

My name is Ugo, Elia (My dad, being a fan of Elia Kazan), Alix (My mum, reading the adventures of Alix when she was young) di Mauro. Many names for one life, yet all tuned into one single personality.
I grew up in the west countryside of France - a true little adventurer kid, climbing trees, riding mountain bikes and horses every weekend. Then… I moved to the city for high school.
The urban environment and proximity with people got quite an impact on me. I became intuitively curious about the street life and started sharpening my eye through a camera. I started photography at the age of 10 or 11 (can’t remember), but it really became part of my life during the high school era. I would basically get extremely bored at school and would somehow escape classes just to wander and catch some street scene, randomly.
This passion for images led me to a design school where I learnt visual communication design for 3 years after high school. Thanks to my school’s network, I had the opportunity to go for a 2 years exchange in Shanghai, China, to get a double Master degree in visual communication and UX design. Eventually, the 2 years long exchange became 7 years of my lifetime… I got my first job in a branding agency straight after graduation, then another job, and another…
I arrived in Hong Kong by default as I was planning to move to Singapore first. Unfortunately, the “Ministry of Manpower” didn’t see it this way and rejected my application, while I was all set for my new life. Eventually I decided to join my partner who would have already settled here.

2. Jumping off the corporate ladder into the vastness of freelance and starting up is a major commitment - what was the turning point for you?

7 years of hard commitment to agency life, chasing the name card, the pay check, and if good enough some awards. That was basically my life guideline.
And one day, I lost, what seemed to be, the greatest opportunity I ever had to join my dream agency in Singapore, while I would have already dropped everything for it months ago, based on their promises to join them “asap”. Visa application rejected by the government “sorry, bye, the end”.
You never really see the unemployment coming, but I guess this was my turning point. For the very first time in my life I lost control over my career (which was basically everything to me at the time) and saw the bright future fading away. 
Back then, I was back in the countryside of France for a short break in-between 2 jobs but it turned out to become a 3 months dead-end period I eventually had to escape from. Instead of getting a new job, I made a critical decision to bring my old photographer friend back into my life, and we went travelling in the Philippines. Out of nowhere, I found myself in this incredible environment and eventually realized the most meaningful, self-produced photography project I would have ever done. This experience in Baseco helped me reconnect with people and this old passion for photography - while it also completely disconnected me from the world I was coming from. Once you wake up, it’s hard to go back to sleep.
Back in Hong Kong, I put myself back together from 4 months of travelling and started freelancing for a living in this busy city. The freedom of freelance helped me establish connections to incredible people that are supporting me today, and they are helping me develop a greater conscious project combining design and photography.

3. What are your thoughts on pollution and waste in HK?

Big topic! It is just omnipresent. And right now, possibilities to improve conditions are various and tangible, but HK is years late on this situation, and it is hard to see the light through the waste.

4. What's your personal battle? How do you make your everyday life greener?

We started a small war against plastic at home… Thank you The Conscious Festival!

5. What's next for you - remember, sky is the limit!?

Secretly working on a photography project ;)