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Occupy Central

Photographer Almond Chu crowdfunds book on Hong Kong protests

Chu's stylised images of demonstrators are both a comment on protesters' sheep-like behaviour and an attempt to increase Westerners' understanding of Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 August, 2015, 10:49am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 August, 2015, 10:52am

Photographer Almond Chu Tak-wah wants to publish a book of images that reflect a deep cynicism about mass gatherings. Ironically, he is trying to summon a crowd, online, to help finance the expensive project.

MCCM Creations, his publisher, has put the cost of printing 300 limited-edition copies of Parade at around HK$225,000. Neither it nor Chu is willing to underwrite the project given the lack of demand for high-end photography books in Hong Kong. Crowdfunding, via a website called wemakeit.com, is their only hope.

Chu said he had never come across another Hong Kong artist who had used this method of raising funds before, but he thought he might as well give it a go since he had no other option for getting the book printed.

“Photography books cost a lot to print but Hong Kong is not a good place to sell them. People think they can get anything online and there’s no appreciation of the editing, the print quality and placement of images that go into these books,” he said.

Given the attention that Hong Kong received abroad because of last year’s "umbrella movement" protest, Chu is eager to consolidate his decade-long "Parade" series about local protests and get his message out. “I want people to take an interest in why Hong Kong is the scene of so many protests since the 1997 handover. I want them to look beyond the headlines,” he said.

The images each features a crowd of protesters made up of multiple clones of the same person, eyes hidden behind sunglasses and expression unreadable. They are seen against familiar scenes in Hong Kong and mainland China that refer to real protests which have taken place, such as the anti-Article 23 protest in 2003 and the battle to stop the demolition of Queen’s Pier in 2006. In one, copies of Chu himself are seen holding up yellow umbrellas in Tamar Park, Admiralty, outside the Hong Kong government headquarters. That did not indicate any sympathy with the protesters, he said.  

“It doesn’t matter who the model is. It is about the lack of individuality in protests and how people all behave like a herd of sheep. It doesn’t matter which side you are on,” he said.

A self-confessed non-voter, Chu said he hated and was suspicious of all politics.  At the same time, he felt there was a lot of misunderstanding about Hong Kong and, in general, condescension towards the East by Westerners.

“I have used the protests as material but I am not commenting on the actual event. I just hope that foreigners will take a more reflective attitude towards Hong Kong,” he said.

So far, the crowd online is not particularly enthusiastic. By August 18, only 13 people had pledged sums, ranging from €6 to €780 – there are different categories depending on whether you want an e-postcard  or the whole kit and caboodle - consisting of a very special edition of the book, a limited edition print, invitation to the opening party in Hong Kong and earlier books by Chu.

Out of the target of €26,000, Chu has raised €3,674 so far. The site is live until August 26.