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Heritage Museum holds social documentary photography exhibition

     An exhibition featuring some 260 works on cityscape photography will be held from tomorrow (June 20) to January 3, 2010, at the Kong Kong Heritage Museum. Entitled "City Flâneur: Social Documentary Photography", the exhibition is the second in the Hong Kong Photography Series. The works on display are masterpieces taken from the 1950s to the present day by 35 groups of photographers. They are divided into four sections, namely, "Street Photography", "Social Documentary", "New Topographics", and "Conceptual and Manipulated Photography", to trace the development of contemporary documentary photography in Hong Kong.

     The exhibition was opened today (June 19) by the Under Secretary for Home Affairs, Ms Florence Hui; the Vice President of the Consumer Imaging and Information Group, Canon Hongkong Company Limited, Mr Mingo Tang; the guest curators of this exhibition, Mr Joseph Fung Hon-kee, Mr Blues Wong Kai-yu, Ms Wong Suk-ki; and the Chief Curator of the Heritage Museum, Ms Belinda Wong.
     To promote the art of photography, the Hong Kong Heritage Museum introduced the Hong Kong Photography Series in 2009. The first programme in the series, "The Verve of Light and Shadow: Master Photographers Tchan Fou-li, Kan Hing-fook, Leo K.K. Wong", showcased works of three seasoned artists to revisit the heyday of pictorial photography in Hong Kong. The second exhibition in the series is "City Flâneur: Social Documentary Photography". To inspire more innovative curatorial ideas, individual curators have been invited to collaborate with the museum. The guest curatorial team includes distinguished photographer and educator, Mr Joseph Fung; co-founder of pH5 Photo Group, Mr Blues Wong and lecturer at the Academy of Visual Arts of Hong Kong Baptist University, Ms Wong Suk-ki.

     Since its invention 170 years ago, photography has become a popular activity, and is closely related to our daily lives. Urban spaces, development and changes in local communities have always been photographers' favourite subjects and provide unique materials for cultural landscapes. The German philosopher Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) brought up the key word flâneur, referring to a wanderer who lives in the city but retains his/her unique personality. To him, the flâneur is not bewildered by the razzmatazz of a commercial metropolis. Benjamin thought a photographer should have the flâneur's noble sentiment. They experience and observe the pulse and attitude of modern cities from a detached angle and document what they see with optical instruments. The popularity of portable cameras has given rise to an increasing number of street photographers. The French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) advocated the philosophy of the Decisive Moment in 1952 and brought this art form to the threshold of Modernism.

     "Social Documentary", unlike photojournalism, is not confined by time and the editorial text. The photographer addresses a specific social issue by lengthy and exploratory investigation. These types of works are mostly in series. Social documentary photography eventually led to the emergence of social landscape photography. It first appeared during the 1960s and 1970s in the United States. Creative photographers of this school focus on the living society or the countries they travelled in. The images often reflect social and environmental change; absurdities resulting from the evolution of mankind or the personal identity crisis of modern man. In contrast to pure documentary photography, social landscape photography reveals the artist's sub-consciousness as projected from everyday scenarios. These authentic facets of the community combining both the conscious world and individual introjections developed the spiritual basis of contemporary Western photography.

     Urban cities are eccentricities, and Hong Kong is one of them. People are not distributed across the land. Instead, they move in dense crowds at many levels of space that exist from underground to mid-air. Numerous intertwining spaces are separated by concrete walls, yet the scenes differ so widely in each cubicle. It is indeed a melting pot of people from all walks of life. Exploring this bittersweet world, the photographer takes a positive part with a disassociated attitude, capturing images by observing all the happenings in the streets and either peeping in through the window or out from it. With its theme of City Flâneur, the exhibition exposes the audience to a group of documentary photographers and their works from the 1960s to the present that show in humanist terms where their hearts lie.

     The participating photographers in the exhibition include Anothermountainman, Chak Wai-leung, Chan Chik, Dick Chan, Raymond Chan, Enoch Cheung, Karl Chiu, John Choy, Almond Chu, Chung Man-lurk, Evangelo Costadimas, John Fung, Simon Go, Alfred Ko, Lai Lon-hin, Lau Ching-ping, Leong Ka-tai, Leung Chi-wo, Sara Wong, Ivy Ma, Ng Sai-kit, Bobby Sham, Dustin Shum, Gretchen So, So Hing-keung, Leon Suen, Tay Wei Leng, Ducky Tse, Tse Ming-chong, Simon Wan, Michael Wolf, Hisun Wong, Wong Kan-tai, Wong Wo-bik, Yau Leung and Vincent Yu.

     To tie in with the exhibition, the Heritage Museum will organise a talk entitled "Do We Still Need Social Documentary Photography?" at its seminar room on June 26 at 2.30pm. The speaker will be the President of Lumenvisum and seasoned photographic journalist, Mr Leon Suen. Admission to the talk, conducted in Cantonese, is free and there is a capacity of 50 seats on a first-come-first-served basis. For enquiries, please call 2180 8260.

     Located at 1 Man Lam Road, Sha Tin, the Heritage Museum opens from 10am to 6pm from Monday to Saturday, and from 10am to 7pm on Sundays and public holidays. It is closed on Tuesdays (except public holidays). Admission is $10, with a half-price concession for full-time students, people with disabilities and senior citizens aged 60 or above. Admission is free on Wednesdays.

     Car parking is available at the Heritage Museum. Those who prefer to use public transport may take the MTR to the Che Kung Temple station, which is within three minutes' walk of the museum.

     For enquiries, call 2180 8188. For details of the exhibition, visit the Heritage Museum's website at .

Ends/Saturday, June 19, 2010


Exhibit, "Flying a kite" by Chan Chik, 1950 - 1959.


Exhibit, "Tsz Wan Shan" by Ducky Tse Chi-tak, 1995.


Exhibit, "tc86" by Michael Wolf, 2008.


Exhibit, "Lam Tsuen, Tai Po" by John Choy Yuk-wai, 2004.



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