Putting a Flag on a Moon

The first concert I’d ever been to was the Alanis Morissette’s in HK 15 years ago. It’s probobaly the loudest or crappiest sounding concert. It’s sounded so distorted and heavy. My second concert was then in the US, while I was studying. I dragged everyone I knew to go together and there were over 10 of us. It turned out that it was a bust, the lead vocal of Linkin Park claimed he’d lost his voice or whatever. Rumor says he got really drunk and hungover. And the show got canceled.

Then during the years I attended concert every once in a while. Going to a concert is as common as going to a movie when the band/artist tour in the States. It’s way cheaper too. Bands such as Korn, Velvet Revolver, Alice in Chains, Nickelback, Sevendust were all a blast.

Some I even drove nearly 3 hours to places out of nowhere. But the most memorable band out of the bunch had to be the Presidents of the USA. They were the band i accidentally came across on one of the re-runs of the Late Show with David Letterman when I was 14 or 15. They performed their mega hit ‘Peaches’, it’s just so catchy even people do not know English can sing along the chorus. It was the last few months before returning to Hong Kong for good. They were doing a local tour for their new record. The Irish Pub they performed at was even smaller than a highschool assembly hall, the vibe just felt great with all the closeness. I was standing literally on the first roll, below the feet of their 3-string guitarist; I could taste his sweat. The crowd had gone bouncing up and down. It was a pure joy. How amazing my dream of going to see them play live had actually happened!

Hong Kong is still not among the top tour destination in Asia for bands and artists, especially for the heavier rock genre. I believe it has everything to do with the record sales, the scale of the tour and the music scene of the city. They prefer Tokyo and always Tokyo not sure why, perhaps Tokyo is Asia. Second choices would be Seoul, Manila, Kuala Lumpur and even Taiwan over Hong Kong. It’s the closest thing to putting a flag on a moon. So whenever any international known singers/groups visit Hong Kong, I just feel honored. I think we all should be, as our Gov said we’re the ‘Asia’s World City’ as the tourism brand motto. It’s almost as privileged as the Queen Elizabeth coming to town, despite our media and reception are usually not so keen on the lesser known (but famed around the globe) which I think it’s not a healthy reaction for whom flew across the ocean.

At the end of a day when I go out to support the band, I just simply live for the moment and have a good time.

Anticipation of The Empty Stage
The Performer
The Whole World on the Line
Newsline to the World
The Natural Model
The Unnatural Celebrity

A Paradise (Throw Away the Rulebook)

Ever wonder what a park would be in your dream? I never, until I walked into one. And I very much wish to share with you after seeing people in groups were:

playing board games
sun tanning
having a picnic
chatting/laughing
Napping
group of kids chasing/screaming
couples kissing/hugging
shooting group photograph
appreciating rare flowers (sakura)
playing music with guitar
playing frisbee
playing soap bubbles
riding bikes
riding kick scooters
riding rollerblades

This may sound very natural on your side of world. But here, it’s a very unique scene when all these were actually happening in one place. What’s even more amazing is the traffic/skyscraper-free backdrop.

The majority of parks in Hong Kong were created and managed by the Leisure and Cultural Department. Most of them were created with the think-inside-a-box or stick-with-the-rules type of design. Really if a park is managed by rules that people do not even want, would people love that? It supposed to be the best place to social and relax. They’ve created parks that tell you what you can’t do, just like a rulebook so everyone needs to follow. Frak that, really.. can we?

The park system is one fine example of the difference between international schools and local schools. Kids come out of these schools are just two different breed even if they were raised similarly at home (well there’s the tuition but that’s not my point). Rules absolutely hinder and limit the scope of development. We need rules to govern, but not to design parks around the rules.

It’s not my first time visiting the Inspiration Lake near Sunny Bay. I’d been there a couple times until last time I had realized another example why government branches are so dysfunctional with the old-fashioned thinking. Do they ever question themselves – why not?

The size – The artificial lake (12 hectares) and park (30 hectares) created by Disneyland. It’s opened to the public without any admission fee. Imagine what’s it like in a golf course, it’s got a paved trail for walking/jogging. On the sides around it and the lake are the accessible lawn. The lake also has a boat centre where you could go for something more adventurous. It’s much larger than the Victoria Park that’s supposed to be the biggest city park (where people usually gather for protest/march). Hong Kong people just wish to enjoy as much open space as possible and this is the answer.

The design – I do not know if there’s such thing as landscape architecture in Hong Kong. Maybe you think Hong Kong is just too small to have something that’s supposed to be large in scale? Wrong. They’re there for a reason, they create space for you just like what indoor architecture do but with a much concentrated field. My dad easily observed and pointed out at the Inspiration Lake that the lawn area were smartly designed with hills and valleys. It’s to create more visual depth, space and area out of a fixed area. The entire park was literally barrier free. Plenty of huge trees were planted to provide a large cool shade.

The surrounding – The scenic view is one of a kind in Hong Kong. All you see is the sky and a mountain covered with greens. No more skyscrapers, residential estates, traffic, or any kind of development. What a beauty! Even the air you breath in would feel a lot fresher.

In the weekends visitors (friends, couples, families) would flock to the Inspiration Lake for quality outdoor time. All I saw was the happy faces, laughters, joyful atmosphere just like how I’d picture a paradise.

There’s something about this park that just makes it the most ideal park to be. Most of the government parks would just prohibit you from doing this and that, if you do security would come ruin your day. This might just the only place with less of the metal and concrete, more woods and greens, and facility friendly park. And boy, I just love lakes!

Park - Nature at its best
Park - Full of Smile and Happiness
Urban - fluorescent light and elevators
City - Full of little geeks

For Paul

After seeing the Furious 7 movie, it does feel like I’d also lost somebody I’d known for a long time. He’s just such a cool person on screen. I totally understood what made the rest of casts/family so emotional. The last two scenes had really touched me and it’s the best fan appreciation and goodbye for Paul. It’s as real as looking right at Paul smiling in heaven.

The Fast and Furious had been with me ever since I first arrived in the US for study in 2001. I have become a fan since then. The last 2 Fast and Furious movies I saw were in Hong Kong with my long time buddy. There were just so much struggle as a foreigner before, which could turn into a book chapter. Seeing those movies just remind me of my past, and coming back home is the sweetest thing ever. I look at it as my next chapter.

My then next chapter had really turned into something I’d only dreamt about, doing what I enjoy and get recognized in a way. The interview which i had done earlier last month is finally available on the Where Hong Kong Magazine. It’s very cool to know when other 3 out of 4 photographers interviewed are either in the photography business or have recently turned into celebrity status (happy for her though). What more could I ask for? I really appreciate the editor’s support.

No matter what happens next, I would still look at it as a bonus.

P.S. The last photo is dedicate to Paul and the Fast and Furious.

Desperate to exist - To Kwa Wan
What HK is seeing, heading
Can't wait to wipe it out
Looking back the history
Alternative to flowers, cotton
for Paul

Spirit of Our Home

It’s such an experience to work on something so journalistic for the first time with the professional editors. It’s actually quite similar to how I approach some talkative strangers for photo. We approached traditional dry goods businesses that run by family. Some of these people have been working in the industry for all their lives, including their long-time staff. It’s so great to hear all their stories, how it all started etc.. I could feel the love with their stories. They represent the Old Hong Kong which I believe we desperately need to preserve. Believe or not, the industry can disappear.

The Old Hong Kong is knowns for its kindness, hospitality, genuinely welcoming vibe (人情味). It’s a Chinese term that is not easy to be translated. I cannot say it’s disappeared, but the city currently is really unhappy about just so many things. Perhaps the information these days flow just too fast on our cellphones, or most problems these days can be solved with money, or there’re just too many people living in the city. Or maybe the term (人情味) is simply skimmed down to how we Hong Kongese call as – nice.

During this year’s Chinese New Year lunch gathering with the family of my dad’s brother, my mom spoke about how difficult life was back then. A visit back to her hometown in China sounded like a trip to the Amazon jungle. First, the boat ride took long and was very rough. Then the only pier available was in Lantau Island which would take another long bumpy land/water ride to get there (the islands were not connected to the city). That was 50 years ago. She told us how she missed the once-a-day boat to China in heavy rain. She was just a girl and some unknown family allowed her to stay for the night. Imagine that today, to have a stranger come to your apartment. What’s even crazier was the family showed her around in Lantau the morning after. It’d imagine Lantau was more like a fishing village back then, as remote as you could imagine.

When people speak about the spirit of Hong Kong people, they would refer it to this classic Cantonese tune 獅子山下/Under the Lion Rock sang by Roman Tam. You get a sense of how difficult life was for that generation. We lived under the same roof, we struggled, we united, we gave, we helped each other. There’s always hope when we fight hard, work hard. Even the SAR Government re-wrote a song based on this one – 同舟之情/HK Our Home. It’s quite a contrast if you view the clips one after another. Our government sends out message to us, wanting us to cheer up and remind us who we really are.

Windmill of Fortune
Indonesian
World of tiny monitors
Playing
Indonesian
Closing Business
Sparkle Up

Trying and Believing

As you’re reading this post, I’ve already got invited as a photographer by an active editor/writer in Hong Kong, who’s pledged on working on a book project. What’s exciting about this book project is that: It’s about Hong Kong and I can be part of it to contribute to my home. I get to work together as a team on topics that I also wanted to do. I cannot say I’m nervous, but just so little to know what to expect. Just like how you’d imagine what a new job is all about. I have a good grasp on all the common environmental settings, all i have to do is to be there really. Be there on the spot!

The workflow would be so different from what I normally do on such as a project or a photo essay. It will require more communication exchanges on photo selections and directions we should steer onto. I’m glad I could experience like this. On the other hand, I get to speak English again which I feel familiar with and yet odd (because I got rusty).

And how about the very same editor interviewed me for a themed article on a local english magazine along with a few other photographers (can’t wait to see how it’d look under the care of professionals). Who would have thought i get opportunity like this? It feels like a little lottery I’ve won.

I must thank myself for trying and believing thus far.

The Curtain
Kid thru the Glass
Prism
Into the Illusional Blue
Fine Wines in Professional Cellar
Professional Food Prep
Manageable Scale
Unmanageable Scale

Improvise

A flat that I live in with my parents is more like a storage room than a place to live in. Things are everywhere which most of them contributed to my parents. Maybe the flat is too small, maybe the hardship they’d been through in their earlier days, trashing their own stuff is a prohibited act. A living place as such had planted a hopeless seed in me. As much as I want to have my own place or even just a bedroom that would fit my PC is a dream that I could only wish for. I’m lucky enough already that I’ve tasted what it’s like to live by myself. It’s when you finally grown up and start taking care of yourself. I can’t agree more. It’s only that I’m going backwards.

Those who work hard to get to where they are, with enough savings for a flat’s down payment. Am I not working hard enough? Is this what I deserve? I don’t even know how to save enough for the price of a square foot (HKD$10,000).

I lose some, and gain some. I get to see my retired parents everyday, get to take care of each other.

Seeing how my peers make their living as a Investment Banker, Insurance Sales Manager, and even many of my former schoolmates had become accountants; it’s a letdown to know how little i earn. But if you ask me if I’d like to work as the above mentioned, nope. I want something that has to do with me. It is why I appreciate those who dedicate their life in art as a profession. To some degree I also believe cooking is an art. You’re in charge in so many different ways, with dishes that can be varied, paired, shared and appreciated. Wonderful food is no doubt a catalyst to a happier life.

No matter how tiny and messy my home is, on rare occassion when I catch the mood, I’d improvise and hand roll my own fresh pasta. Fun fact, I almost had to roll the dough on the floor with plastic wrap in order to get a huge surface. It can be a disaster to clean up though. It takes 10 minutes or less to finish that plate, the work behind on prep and clean up may take as long as an hour. It’s out of my curiosity I wish to accomplish by trying. It always takes a couple trial and errors to get it right. Yup, I’d just use the dry pasta for the normal days.

Cooking is the least I could do to make myself satisfied, while my photography has the same effect but only with the shadow of uncertainty. My every other weeks, to be able to handpick a couple images of life around here is what I feel thankful for. The tram scene I discovered while passing the odd moments with colleagues, the fish tank at my grand aunt’s during our family visit, presentation of art exhibits, the surprise ground full of floral petals at a mall, , the chef preparing teppanyaki at our company’s Chinese New Year Gathering. They’re all so vivid and meaningful to me.

Tram to Happy Valley
Gold Fish
Understanding the presentation
The Petal Boy
Mouthwatering Sizzle

The Life Projected

I have forgotten why I do photography. This feeling grew so strongly lately to the point I basically put the entire act in halt. I tried anything from going back to digital, back to my film rangefinder, even ventured with my instax. Not even a single photo was made. Not a surprise, It’s something I expected beforehand.

It all supposed to be a fun and exciting activity. Something I swore I would do daily and every so often. I never knew I’d come to this point where I’m questioning why I’m doing in the first place. What an irony..

In a nutshell, to me it’s pointless to even have a camera with me without a proper purpose.

There’re other genres that I’d like to try, such as fashion. It can’t be done without models. And it’s unfortunate I’m lacking on in this kind of network. I really thought some sort of collaboration would be super cool. It’s at least a new type of content I wish it could be added along to the normal routine. This more or less explained why I’m so detached to the street photography. There’s just no excuses of how my shitty life projected onto my photography.

My work life is greatly affecting my personal life, emotionally. I certainly see a passage however underlies with lots of doubts, such as responsibilities and lack of raise/title. I hope this odd feeling would level out and back to normal soon.

Present to you images from 3 different rolls, 2 different cameras. Screw the inconsistency…
Abandoned
Was Colonial, here's what's left
The Superpower
Rainbow
The world thru the projector
The world thru the life experience
Fun not all Hongkongese would understand
Emotion that only your early age would understand