Saturday, 19 November 2011

Illuminating the Yet-to-be-illuminated

DSC04114L (Sony A55)

On the festive square heavily festooned with Christmas decorations, a pair of young lovers asked the author to help take a shot of them.  Having handed over the expensive camera, the happy man went back to his girl and both sat still posing for the picture. But wait a minute! The exposure combo said f9.0 and 0.7s at ISO 400! The author returned the camera to the man saying that he would certainly end up with blurry shot. The suggestion was to stop down the aperture and tune up the ISO at least to 800. The reply in the form of a question was whether the ISO 800 would slow down the camera.

Maybe the camera cycle has gone too fast, the marketing departments have done so good a job and technology has made so very wide leaps that the basics of photography need to be talked about more.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Sign up for HK Ricoh Meetup

(Ricoh GX200; event contents are suggestive)

The Ricoh Meetup HK is now official and open for signing up until 22 Nov at midnight. As quotas apply, those who are interested may wish to sign up asap. For signing up, click on the photo above.  Successful applicants will receive email notification from the organiser.

Crist and I as well as certain bloggers will attend the event. Since this is official, representatives from Laikok (HK sole dealers of Ricoh cameras) and Ricoh will be there as a matter of course.  Hope to see you there!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Selected Excellence: Mak Fung (1918-2009)

0810(Central Market, c 1960)

The Hong Kong University Visual Archive has this to say about the local master photographer:

Mak has worked as executive editor for Photoart and Photo Pictorial in Hong Kong. He has been Honorary Fellow of the Chinese Photographic Association of Hong Kong and Asian Photographic Association of Singapore. He strives to combine the documentary and the expressive functions of photography in his work. His albums Fung Mak Portfolio: The Wind, The Sunshine, and The Foliage and Mak Fung: Hong Kong Once Was were published in 1992 and 1997 respectively.

From a description of the image featured today, it is pointed out in Mak's Central Market the busy thoroughfare of the market is dramatically transformed by the raking light pouring in from an internal courtyard.  All the components of the photograph aer flawlessly aligned into a filmic narrative, from the Bauhaus-inspired architecture and the opalescent beams of light to the face of the cigarette-smoking man lit improbably by the light reflected from the floor.  For the fraction of a second that it took fro the camera to create the photograph, Mak's figures become speculative actors in a wider drama.

This is very well said about the captivating image. In line with the discussion of paradoxical elements, the picture here can also be interpreted as having such elements. While the opalescent beams of light is reminiscent of the rays of light coming through the windows in a sacred Catholic church or monastery, the monotonous figures of the persons, not least the stony facial expression of the cigarette-smoking man, are reminders of nothing but probably zombies. This paradoxical, or interchangeably contradictory, mood bestows the image with an inner charm to draw viewers' attention.

For more of Mak's photographic works, check them out here.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Selected Excellence: Yau Leung 1941-1997


(Drunken Sailor 1966)

Yau Leung was a widely-recognised local photographer known for his fruitful accomplishments in documentary photographs. His works are almost exclusively in black and white, capturing the iconic images of Hong Kong and its people from the 1960s and 1970s. First a photographer working for one after another local film production companies from the mid-1960s to early 1970s, he later started the Photographic Life monthly in 1973 and assumed chief editorship for the Art of Photography monthly in the 1980s. Fame brought him a good number of chances to publish his works in albums and exhibitions both locally and in the Mainland China.

Thanks to his sharp eye and deft hand, the frozen moments preserved in the master’s images provide animated records of Hong Kong in his times. Those pictures showing the lives of the grassroots are especially moving, in which permeates the mood of plebeian simplicity. It is exactly because of such simplicity that the inclusion of non-plebeian elements could add an extra dimension of paradoxical mood to the final image. Sometimes the image can be so paradoxical as to be humourous and ironic.

The image featured in this post is paradoxical in that the scene seemingly defies the rule whereby gweilos were superior and the Chinese inferior in the British Hong Kong back then. The drunken white guy is not a usual gweilo but a US naval solider, which even more heightens the irony figuratively represented by a fallen white being looked down upon by a teenage Chinese girl. The incidental composition exaggerating the proportion of the fallen drunk man and the upright figure of the girl also contributes effectively to the visual metaphor.

For more of Yau's photographic works, check them out here.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Selected Excellence: Chan Chik (1918-2004)


(Pure Gold and Lace-Ups – An Impossible Dream 1953, at Sheung Wan)

Chan Chik was a famous photographers in Hong Kong. His works are among those of the Hong Kong artists documented by the Hong Kong University in its online visual archive, which writes briefly about Chan:

In the early years of his career, Chan studied painting in Yongqing Studio under Xu Yongqing. Later, he learned the skills of wood carving and graphic design from sculptor Yu Suoya as well as writers Nie Qiannu and Liu Huozi. During the anti-Japanese resistance war, he worked as a war correspondent for Ta Kung Pao Daily and reported wartime struggles from the east and north of Guangdong. When Hong Kong came under siege, he moved further inland to Guilin where he worked as a teacher in several schools including the Nanning Zhongshan Middle School, Nanning Middle School and Nanning Nursing School. When Nanning also came under siege he moved again, this time to the south of Guangxi. There he taught in the Tianbao National Middle School and Tianbao Teachers Training Institute. After the war, Chan returned to Hong Kong and joined The Great Wall Pictorial as a journalistic photographer. Later he was appointed the director of Photography in Xunhuan Daily . Before he retired in 1980, he had worked for Ta Kung Pao Daily and the The New Evening Post as a reporter and an editor. In his retirement, Chan has continued working and has often undertaken photographic and graphic design projects.

The image featured above is filled with a paradoxical mood, and therefore attracts the viewers' gaze. An introduction of the image writes, "That fashion perennial, the brogue, has recently been branded a "'colonial relic" in India and become the target of calls for abolition as regulation footwear for the country's schoolchildren.  In Chan Chik's photography from 1953, the brogue is seen bearing down upon a man seated on the ground eating a meal. The orange cartons that surround him bear the trademark "Pure Gold". Whether the brogue held similar colonial connotations for Chan is not known, but through a combination of words and images, the photograph makes its point, communicating, among other things, the gap between reality and aspiration."

The "communicating… the gap between reality and aspiration" is achieved by two pairs of paradoxical, or contradictory, elements: the gigantic painted brogue stamping the underprivileged man,  and the worthless carton box bearing the illusionary all-important "Pure Gold".

The introduction continues, "Chan was a tireless observer of the people around him who were rebuilding their lives in post-war Hong Kong.  he beleived that "goof pictures speak for themselves. They should be straightforward, easy for everyone to understand."

For more of Chan's photographic works, check them out here.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Paradoxical Mood

R9353180L (Ricoh GX200; five-star hotel's staff having a five-star respite)

Holiday mood is a paradoxical thing since it is felt most strongly not on the holiday but the day immediately after. No one having a holiday will claim oneself in holiday mood probably because we need not the mood to go with what we are actually having.

A paradoxical mood, or simply put, to add paradoxical elements, in an image is a sure-fire way to attract attention. The photographer may not produce a mastery image but such images have a stronger aftertaste, hence leaving a longer impression on the viewers. For the next few posts, we will look at some local mastery works expressing such a mood.
At the sight of the two hotel staff on this Monday morning, who won't be immediately overwhelmed by the leisurely, restful mood of weekends?

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Not Photoshopped

DSC03907L (Sony A55 @Polarised Colour Mode; straight from the camera)

There have been some debate on Mike's The Online Photographer site with whose stance I agree. The rift between an image and a photoshopped creation is so obvious that an image is either discerned as being one or the other. The demarcation should have nothing to do with the puritanical view of photography that post processing is strictly forbidden.  The distinction should be made clear when it comes to a photo contest. To the author,  the clear difference between the two camps lies in whether an element or two has been added to or removed from the final image in the post processing stage, which renders the output as a photoshopped creation.

This is Sunday. Let's do away with any debate and have a good day.