Never-before-seen photos of Hong Kong life in 1950s released by wealthy Kadoorie family

Images shed light on daily life in the city at a time when hand-held cameras were rare

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 September, 2017, 2:33pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 September, 2017, 5:39pm

It may be hard to believe, but there was a time in Hong Kong when an instant response and instant gratification was not the norm and it was possible to stop and enjoy the moment.

A set of never-before-seen photos has been released by one of the city’s most famous business families with the aim of bringing back memories of that period. The images show moments of 1950s Hong Kong captured by Lawrence Kadoorie – a business tycoon who inherited his fortune from his father Elly Kadoorie – using a hand-held 8mm spy camera. The Minox camera was owned by very few people in Hong Kong during the 1950s and was made popular as a spy tool during the second world war.

“At the time my father took pictures, nobody carried a camera because cameras were very bulky,” son of Lawrence Kadoorie, Michael Kadoorie, said.

“Being very small you could keep [the Minox camera] in your pocket, so inevitably ... he was able to take pictures of what he saw immediately; pictures that would not be available simply because you wouldn’t normally be carrying a camera.

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“As a result of that, there are a number of pictures which bring back the times of the day.”

The family has released a set of 60 photographs for public display, taken by Lawrence Kadoorie in the 1950s of everyday life in Hong Kong. Lawrence Kadoorie died in 1993.

The images show Hong Kong in a variety of settings, including daily lives, changing landscapes and the social and economic development generated by Hong Kong residents rebuilding the city after Japanese occupation during the second world war.

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The Iraqi-Jewish family is well known for its business fortune, with controlling interests in CLP Holdings, The Peninsula hotel and Peak Tramways. The Kadoories are estimated to have a net worth of US$9.9 billion.

Lawrence Kadoorie was an avid photographer and was president of the Royal Photographic Association. Michael Kadoorie said his father would host members of the club at his home in the New Territories for photo sessions with invited models.

Kadoorie said that the Hong Kong of today required instant gratification and instant responses due to modern technology. But the Hong Kong of the 1950s showed a time when things could be considered and thought out thoroughly before giving a response, typically by letter.

“It was a different period. You didn’t have instant communication, and my thoughts are that hopefully this will bring back a measure of that period ... and would provoke a little bit of thought of that time,” he said.

The photos will be on display at Exhibition Hall at City Hall from September 28 to October 4.