GALLERY: Pics show Hong Kong in the 1950s through the eyes of a self-taught photographer

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 August, 2015, 7:07am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 August, 2015, 12:57pm

Lee Fook Chee, a young seaman who taught  himself photography, shot scenes of Hong Kong in the 1950s and sold the pictures to tourists to make ends meet. Some 140 examples of his work were published this month in a book – thanks to a chance encounter five  years ago between Lee and Edward Stokes, founder of the Photographic Heritage Foundation.

"Lee was selling small laminated photos and I bought them just to be nice to him,” said Stokes.

About a month after that brief encounter, Stokes received an email from Lee's niece in Singapore, in an apparent coincidence. She asked him to look at her uncle's photos, and eventually Stokes realised he already had. From the photos he had already seen, Stokes said, “I knew this man must have some incredible negatives". And he did. Housed in a 3.3 by 3.3 metre flat in Tai Po, Stokes found some 600 negatives Lee had kept since his early days.

The resulting book, whose publication was funded by billionaire Charles Yeung Chun-kam, came too late for Lee to see. He died in 2012. Stokes said, "I think he would be overjoyed to see his photographs in print and his own history" recorded.