Q It seems as if there are 'antique' Hong Kong photos everywhere. But how do you tell the difference between cheap market finds and high-quality original prints? How old are the oldest ones? WHAT THE EXPERT SAYS: Dennis George Crow specialises in sourcing old photographs of Asia and has returned to Hong Kong for his latest exhibition, Historic Photographs of Hong Kong, showing at 10 Chancery Lane Gallery in SoHo. 'It's always a challenge to find fresh original and unusual early photographs of Hong Kong that have not been exhibited before,' he says. 'Hong Kong photographs have always been popular. They are the most collected photographs from China, followed by Shanghai.' 'Photography was first introduced to Hong Kong in the beginning of the 1860's,' says Crow. His exhibition features shots from the 1860s to the 1960s by photographers such as Afong (active 1859 to 1900), E. O. Hoppe (1882 to 1972), Daisy Wu (active 1950 to 1970) and others from the same period. (Chinese artists often weren't given the same respect as western photo-graphers, so there are some-times no records of what years they lived, only when they were professionally 'active'). Other sought-after names include John Thomson, Milton M. Miller, and William Pryor Floyd. Crow says that Western photographers often took on local apprentices, who eventually opened their own studios. KODAK MOMENT: Photographic methods and techniques changed over time. 'In the 1860s to 1870s, they used large format cameras with an average photo print size of 20 x 25cm, on albumen prints,' says Crow. 'They also made cartes de visite [postcards] or photos sized 5 x 8.5 cm that were usually sold in groups.' However, glass plates and albumen prints proved to be a problem. 'Glass plate [prints] deteriorated very quickly,' he says. 'The larger format albumen died out by the early 1900s.' Developments by Kodak had a big impact. 'Before Kodak developed film for smaller size cameras in the late 1880s, using a large size camera with a glass plate required a working knowledge of chemistry,' he says. 'A dark tent was also needed to prepare the glass plate for the camera. After Kodak developed film, individuals could take photos on their own, without using professionals.' NEW COLLECTOR TIPS: Among the more popular subjects are the Harbour, the Peak, and famous buildings such as the old clock tower and the old Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank Building.' Crow says the method used has little to do with collectability. 'It depends on the quality, condition and rarity of the subject, and how many copies were printed at the time,' he says. 'New collectors should look for the quality of the paper and the rarity of photos.' In his exhibition, Crow says, collectors can expect to spend between $1,000 and $15,000, with about $3,000 being average. Crow's final advice is to study the history of the particular period, the subject and the area. 'Learn more and know what was being built when,' he says. 'Then, try to see as many examples as you can. Go to the Hong Kong Museum of History and any old photo exhibitions. And always avoid reproductions.' Nonetheless, he says authentication requires a certain level of expertise. '[The photo-graphers] only sometimes signed their works.' RESOURCES: Crow's Historic Photographs of Hong Kong Exhibition and Sale, 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, SoHo, tel: 2810 0065. Crow's exhibition catalogue Historic Photographs of Hong Kong 1860-1960, Hong Kong Exhibition April 2004 is on sale at the gallery ($270). Crow's Historic Photographs of Asia and Africa are available from www.dennisgeorgecrow.com .