Alternative images give telling snapshots of society

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 September, 2012, 9:43am

Each era has its iconic portraits. They could reflect the values pursued by people at that time or details from everyday life as a witness to social change. On the other hand, the observant eyes of photographers have also captured alternative images of society to reflect a unique facet of the times.

This is what the four categories of the exhibition, "Hong Kong Photography Series 3: Beyond the Portrait", try to show.

"Portraits of the Society" opens with Simon Go's collection of studio portraits taken from the end of the 19th century to the 1970s, illustrating the changes in society. This is followed by Yip Suk-man's study on Companion magazine of the 1920s and '30s and City Magazine of the 1970s and '80s, giving glimpses of "new woman images" and "yuppie tastes". Viewers will understand how Hong Kong, with the integration of new and old, the East and West, nurtured the mercurial trends of pop icons and the lively tastes of yuppies. From Kalen Lee's study of photographers from the 1950s to 1990s, including Chan Chik, Richard Yee, Leon Suen, Bobby Yip, Alfred Ko and Vincent Yu, viewers will see the social dimension imbued in their portrait photographs.

The emphasis of "Artistic Portraits" is on the aesthetics of photography. It features three photographers: Lo So-man, who is skilful in his use of light and visual texture to convey the disposition of the subjects; Holly Lee, who uses an approach somewhere between snapshots and staged shots to express the freedom of the true self; and Almond Chu, who expresses the subjects' comfortable selves and presents their occupation or background through physical form and symbolism. These photographers have designed their own form of expression, showcasing the taste of the photographer and the personalities of their subjects.

In "Family Portraits", the works of veteran and young photographers are presented. For example, both veteran documentary photographer Lau Pok-chi and young photographer Ting Chan examine second-generation overseas Chinese. Lau uses direct and eye-level contact to express his humanistic concern, while Chan uses staged shots to illustrate the psychological status of the subjects. Holly Lee uses overlapping images and multiple exposures to illustrate the complexity of the psychological dimension. Wong Suk-ki records the profile portraits of her family members so as to establish her family identity, while Lau Chi-chung shoots discarded portraits as a reminiscence of life in former times.

"Self Portraits" presents the observation, understanding and contemplation of the self by a group of young photographers, who are the photographer as well as the photographed. Liu Ngan-ling (Siu Ding) and Ada Hung work as a collaborative team and Stella Tsoi has created her own language from the living environment, while Dick Lai and Jimmy Chan are skilful in using photography as a means to express their inner worlds, developing a new realm of artistic creation with their audience.