by Chiara Caratti photo editor Yourpictureditor
Hong Kong is a busy city with an eclectic mind and it can be difficult to find what you are looking for. Even more so if we talk about local Photography, a hidden pearl rolling around the city.
The newborn monthly magazine Photography is art, is the only bilingual (English and Chinese) publication in Hong Kong completely focused on Photography in its artistic and value aspects. It shows how the city wants and needs a professional guide to nurture this field.
But still, it is useful to explore the local photography in its everyday characteristics in order to build a map to navigate it. Where does one go to find the authentic professional local Photography community? What is the current situation of Photography in Hong Kong and how to improve it?
Paul Yeung, experienced and awarded HK photographer, lecturer in Photojournalism at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, active participant of the city photo culture, gives us an overview to find our coordinates.
In Europe, the publishing industry is experiencing a period of deep change where digital magazines are replacing paper ones. What’s the situation in Hong Kong?
Overall, I think the situation in Hong Kong is more or less the same. The circulation of newspapers and magazines in paper keeps shrinking. Most of the local media develop and manage their own apps, Facebook pages and websites, and pursuit of the page views and LIKEs. The main problem is that the Hong Kong media industry still can’t find a way to earn as much money as before from digitalization, online versions and social networks, as audience habits and the ecology of Internet has changed a lot. On one side, the readers don’t want to pay much for information, news stories and investigative reportage, on the other side the monopoly of the social platform giants eats most of the medias’ profit. So the mainstream Hong Kong media are still struggling. But there are some independent small media and platforms being set up to fill the gap and produce many good stories and variety of contents, such as Factwire, Initium and Citizen News. Their money largely comes from investors, crowdfunding campaigns, donations and subscriptions.
Which are the photo agencies or the organisations of photographers that produce local material?
I think about ATUM Images. It is a group of Hong Kong documentary photographers who produce documentary and commercial works.
Which Hong Kong associations or places of culture would you recommend for those who love and work in Photography?
There are a few places that mainly focuses on photography and regularly hold photography exhibitions in Hong Kong such as Blindspot Gallery, Lumenvisum, F22 Foto Space, JPG Café. There you can find good photo exhibitions, photography books and you can choose something to drink if you have time.
Besides, Hong Kong has a few associations organized by professional photographers in different fields as Hong Kong Photographic Culture Association, which mainly organizes the biennial Hong Kong International Photo Festival (HKIPF).
We have also Hong Kong Press Photographers Association (HKPPA), in which all members are press photographers and educators related to photojournalism and documentary. It organizes a press photo contest and exhibition every year. And there is Hong Kong Institute of Professional Photographers (HKIPP), which is a well-known organization in the industry, mostly composed of local professional commercial photographers.
Any name of emerging Hong Kong photographers in fine art and photojournalism area?
For art and conceptual photography I would mention Sheung Yiu, Jeff Lam Pok Yin, Lau Wai and Terry Ng. As for documentary and photojournalism areas there are photographers like Billy H.C. Kwok, Jimmy Lee, Lam Chun Tung and Ko Chung Ming.
Which digital platforms are used the most to promote photographers’ work beyond personal websites?
In my own experience, I find most Hong Kong photographers are using Instagram and Facebook for their promotion.
What are the main challenges for local photographers?
For documentary photographers and photojournalists, I think the main challenge is to adapt to the workloads of handling moving images (video) and to explore the technology of interactive media. It is important for them to learn the culture of social networking when they cover a news story and establish fame for their own career.
Another problem is that, generally, the local press photographers and photo editors are not being respected by the media boss and chief editors, who always overpowers the photo department and makes decisions without the professional opinion from photo editors and photographers.
Overall, the culture and education in Hong Kong does not encourage creative thinking. Photographers always struggle between making a living and creating their own works in this high-rent and expensive-living-cost city. Meanwhile, being a special administration region in China after 1997, Hong Kong becomes one of the small cities in Mainland China, which has more exposure and saying power on the international platform. It is difficult for Hong Kong photographers to stand out and get attention from the international photography circle, although I think Hong Kong is quite unique in its colonial history and cultural situation. I really hope that more global photography curators, commentators and scholars could pay more attention to Hong Kong photography, especially studying its context of social and political change.
Do you have any suggestion to improve photographic culture in Hong Kong?
It is a very difficult question. It is quite cliché to say that we need to do more on photography and visual education, but it is still very true and important indeed. We need to educate the youngsters and audience how to appreciate, criticize and collect photographic works. It would be useful to plan more workshops and long-term courses like the successful one we had in Hong Kong few years ago, Through Our Eyes Photography Education Programme. Also, Hong Kong photographers could try to be more open and showcase their projects in the international platforms, competitions and exhibitions, in order to let people know better our culture.
Paul Yeung Tak-ming (b.1978, Hong Kong) graduated from MA in Image and Communication (Photography) at Goldsmiths College, London in 2011. Yeung embarked on his profession in photojournalism for 10 years after graduated from BA of Journalism and Communication in Hong Kong 2000. He was elected to be chairman of the Hong Kong Press Photographers Association (2007, 2008). He has been part-time lecturer in the Chinese University of Hong Kong, School of Continuing and Professional Studies of CUHK (CUSCS), and School for Higher and Professional Education (SHAPE). He had received more than 20 awards presented by The Newspaper Society of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Press Photographers Association and Invisible Photographer Asia. He participated in “Count to 12”, a part of “The Road to 2012” project commissioned by and exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery, London (2011). Yeung opened his first solo photography exhibition The Flower Show (2012) at Blindspot Gallery in 2012. His works are collected by The Hong Kong Heritage Museum, Library of The Chinese University of Hong Kong and private collectors.
Credit photo: Photo by Paul Yeung from the project The Flower Show