At the beginning of 1995, artist and academic David Clarke had a light-bulb moment: he would create a photography project over a five-year period. He got a bit carried away – the project ended up spanning 25 years. “I didn’t think of it as a 25-year project,” laughs British-born Clarke. “I thought the beginning of 1995 was a good starting point for a five-year project because the handover of Hong Kong back to China was in the middle of it and it was the last five years of the millennium.” The result, “Hong Kong in Transition”, a collection of more than 42,000 photos, is now available as a free-to-use archive hosted on the HKU art history department’s website. “It’s more than 40,000 images taken over 25 years – that means, on average, it’s about 400,000 words just for the captions, equivalent to writing eight short books,” says Clarke, a retired art historian at the University of Hong Kong, who specialises in Chinese modern art. Clarke, whose approach to photography is personal and subjective, says the collection is snapshots of everyday life in a changing city. There are shots taken at cultural events, street scenes, images of plants and animals and others that fall into the more abstract category. While many capture strangers in the street, there are some familiar faces, from singer Faye Wong performing at the Hong Kong Coliseum in 1999 to former United States president Bill Clinton receiving an honorary degree at HKU in 2008. “I documented Hong Kong from the perspective of my own life, as an observer,” he says; a Lucky Dip function on the site is a fun addition for those looking for a random selection. “The images in the archive tend to emphasise locations near my home, and places and events I found myself in because of my identity as an academic and an artist.” As well as academic books and articles, Clarke has also published two photobooks: Reclaimed Land: Hong Kong in Transition (2002) and Hong Kong x 24 x 365: A Year in the Life of a City (2006). He has worn many public service hats, too, from being on the board of governors of the Hong Kong Arts Centre, to helping set up the Hong Kong Art School and serving on the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority’s museum committee. “Hong Kong in Transition” saw Clarke shift from film to digital photography. “For much of the time I worked with 35mm film using a Leica Minilux,” he says; most of the digital images were taken with a Sony A7 II. Clarke says the archive would not only interest members of the public but benefit students as well as researchers. Making a profit isn’t part of the plan. “I’ve had little to do with the commercial art market – and that’s by choice, ” he says. “That’s partly why I got involved with a project like this – I want to connect with people outside the art world and to connect with them on a basis that is generous. If you’re interested in it, then it’s here for you.” Visit the archive at arthistory.hku.hk/HKinTransition.