My Photo Essay《 创意老街一座城市的记忆, 新加坡与上海创意文区哈芝巷与田子坊》Published in LianheZaobao 联合早报 Newspapers Dated 2 November 2017
My photo essay under pen name 蓝天游 on Shanghai's creative hip place Tian Zi Fang & SG's Haji Lane《创意老街一座城市的记忆, 新加坡与上海创意文区哈芝巷与田子坊》is published in today's LianheZaobao 联合早报缤纷版 dated 2 November 2017! 感谢、感恩! Thrilled to see it being featured nationwide in print! Special thanks to Lianhe Zaobao, you have made my day! :)
When it comes to the street art scene, Hong Kong is not a name that is usually among the most talked about. In the ensuing years, mural art has ballooned in Hong Kong amid a growing scene with local and international artists and increasingly favourable attitudes towards art in the public, by the public. Murals spread across Hong Kong, with diverging degrees of style, quality and message.
2013 saw the launch of HKWalls, a street art festival that has helped ferment discussion about public art spaces in the city. The following year saw the Occupy movement and its accompanying flurry of creative expression in public spaces. The protests turned out to be a rife platform for the creation of street art, with students, activists and citizens leaving their marks on the city’s concrete and turning the streets into extraordinary art installations. Their visual messages and rebellions were catapulted into the world’s consciousness via the international media reporting on the protests. I always remind people to look up in Hong Kong. If we only pay attention to the street level, we’ll miss so many wonderful things. Here take a look at some of the pieces that brightening up Hong Kong walls.
One of the earliest forms of business in Hong Kong, pawn shops are situated in almost every district of the city. Pawnbroking in Hong Kong has a history as long as that of the city itself. Before major banks established themselves in the then-British colony and won the confidence of local residents, pawn shops served as early Hongkongers’ main financial institutions. Customers would invest their wages in valuables that could then be stored at pawn shops and used as collateral against which they borrowed sums of money. Within a certain contractual period of time, the pawner could then redeem the items for the amount of the loan, plus an agreed-upon amount of interest. If the customer does not repay the loan with interest then the belongings are kept and sold off to second-hand and jewellery shops. Jewellery, watches, fur and clothes are the most common items pawned.
In Hong Kong, you'll see an occasional glimpse of a pawn store sign featuring an upside down bat holding a coin. You may also notice that these signs are colored in vibrant shades of neon red and green. These signs are used by Hong Kong's pawn shops and have been for well over two hundred years. The colors and symbolism of these signs have special meanings in both Hong Kong and Chinese society as a whole.
Hong Kong is a place where nostalgia rules. French toast and milk tea are still favoured menu items in remembrance of the British colonial years, pictures of antique letterboxes and traditional iron gates are now framed in trendy homewares stores and printed on t-shirts, and old wooden trams still trundle across Hong Kong Island for tourists and locals alike. So it’s not surprising that the last of the printing presses, while dwindling fast, can still be found tucked away among the busy streets of the city.
It was on a walk through Sheung Wan, on Hong Kong Island, that I spotted this tiny print shop – a literal hole in the wall no more than a few metres wide. Here I met Mr Wong, a printer who has been practicing his craft for the past 60 years, with 43 years working in this cosy little shop.
有恒印务，它是经营了接近 60 年的印刷公司，座落于香港上环，隔着马路去看这家小店，现时仍然提供柯式印刷的业务。时至今日，有恒印务一人操作，在200多呎的开放式小店内，凭数部手动印刷机，便可印出制作精美的公司名片、宣传单张、贺卡小帖。店中还保留了一台 Heidelberg 海德堡 120 活字印刷机，以及十数版铅字粒，字盘字托，选字排版，以至付印的详细过程，全部均由人手操作。
Dai pai dongs or street hawkers in Hong Kong are a dying breed, passed down through generations but now a rare sight in the city. The city struggles to maintain the few for the sake of collective memories and the tourists that visit. They only congregate mostly in the Central district and in the street markets of Sham Shui Po. Dai pai dong means a lot to me, it's about Hong Kong's food culture. I've gradually come to regard the street-side food stalls with a tinge of nostalgia as more of these traditional eateries are being forced into extinction by a government eager to clean up the streets.
Built from scrap-metal sheets, Sui Kee's 70-year old kitchen shack and six folding tables with stools sat on a sloping street off Gutzlaff Street in the city's Central District. The dai pai dong, its tables balanced precariously on the steep grade, was just a short walk from the gleaming heart of this global financial hub. Sui Kee specializes in cow offal served with noodles in broth. Deep-fried wontons are also popular options.
One of the oldest Dim Sum restaurants in Hong Kong - Lin Heung Tea House (Central) 香港老字号的港式茶楼：莲香楼 (中环)
A visit to an old school dim sum place in Hong Kong is quite an unusual experience for the uninitiated. And with a touch of tension all built in, in this case, the Lin Heung Tea House in Central Hong Kong. If you are searching for that greasy hole in the wall serving up dim sum food, look no further. Lin Heung Tea House is one of the oldest tea-houses in Hong Kong and they are still serving dim sum and traditional recipes with no signs of slowing down.
Lin Heung Tea House has remained authentic in terms of both décor and recipes since opening in 1920. As the name “dim sum” implies, a table full of food shared in good company will “touch the heart.” Be prepared to shout over the table as this place does not shy away from noise. Step back into the 1930s with the old paintings, authentic hot water kettle and the ceiling fans.
莲香楼位于中环的威灵顿街，它在上环还有一家分店 – 莲香居。两间茶楼的门口都挂上两个红红的大灯笼，非常古色古香。
Hong Kong is my favourite Asian city, and I visit it whenever I have a chance. With every visit, I discover a new face of the city.
I spent several days wandering its streets to find and capture striking shades and shapes, especially moments where the concrete is broken up by different details. Other images focus on the geometric shapes and contrasts created as the city’s skyscrapers jostle for position. I became especially fascinated by the scale of Hong Kong’s tower blocks, which house thousands of people, and I used street level perspective to draw attention to their size. The buildings’ towering presence is further emphasised by the minuscule clothes that dot the balconies, and the juxtaposition of nearby amenities.
I wanted to present the exteriors of these buildings in opposition to their interiors. The goal was to highlight the light and delicate features. I really wanted to find new angles and perspectives through my lens. Honing in on bolts of brightness and panelling that wraps around the outside of buildings, this series of images reframe the city’s architecture.
As many of you know, I love Hong Kong. For me, nothing beats the energy and life of this amazing city. The dynamic landscape (that changes by the minute), the convenience, the hecticness and the diversity of cultures is what sets this city apart from the rest of the world. I used to go to Hong Kong at least three times a year, I even had a Hong Kong frequent visitor card. Sadly, that card has expired.
I come back often and whenever I do, I feel a lot - memories, changes, what ifs, the lot. So I usually ride heavily on nostalgia, visiting every haunt and old-timer cuisine I can find to pen photo stories. Strangely, Hong Kong itself seems to be doing the same thing. It's very apparent that this city is changing: economic slump, political struggles, gentrification, and tensions between Hong Kongers and Mainlanders that I’ve read daily in the news.
Typhoons are also a fact of life living in Hong Kong and like any bad weather system are unpredictable. Summer is typhoon season in Hong Kong, which can experience storms of such severity that the entire city shuts down. It was also reported that Hong Kong was left picking up the pieces last week after a battering by the biggest storm in five years.
People’s impression of Hong Kong is often centred around the dominating architecture and hectic, people filled streets, and what with so much looking up at the skyline it often takes a few days to focus on the multilayered and intricate cultural elements in the city. But this time round, I’m all about immersing myself in the day- to-day lives of the locals and see how the locals clear up a heavily damaged Hong Kong after the storm left behind a trail of destruction.
I’m off to Hong Kong! See you all soon again. Till then, pls take care and stay happy.
Look Out For Stunning Street Art at the Under-Renovation Singapore Funan Mall - Constructions Not Necessary Always Have To Be Boring & Dull-looking
Every city tells its own unique story by the street art it has. I am a big fan of it, because it’s made for everyone and like each and every piece of art, there is always a message to reflect upon. Singapore Funan IT Mall was closed for a complete overhaul. But if you walk by there now, you might do a double take: the hoardings are covered in graffiti. A local artist teamed up with the mall to make the hoardings his personal canvas. It's so nice to see some public art in the otherwise all-business part of town.
I’m not sure how my street art obsession began but it was definitely at some point during my travels, when my creativity was sparked and my mind opened up enough to explore what I had until then considered messy scribbles. Or maybe I just fell in love with the irreverence and rebelliousness I sensed behind those scribbles. Suffice it to say that the mere act of travel helps open up my mind to new forms of art - a creativity and curiosity fueled by the different sights and lifestyles.
As I travel, whenever I walk down a street and see splashes of color covering up an otherwise drab wall, I’ll stop and take a picture, imagining hooded youngsters slinking around at night, with paints and brushes and cans under their jackets, furtively slingling brush strokes at cement. I’ll probably be wrong about the image – but I won’t be wrong about loving what I see.
Hong Kong-based artist Mr Danny Yung brought the Tian Tian Xiang Shang (“TTXS”) exhibition to Singapore. The exhibition was held within Raffles City Shopping Centre curated by Mr Yung, where TTXS figurines designed by foreign and local celebs, students, illustrators and artists were on display. There were three large figures on the plaza outside, as well as many smaller figures inside. The exhibition ended recently on 21 August 2017. I took a trip down to see what our local celebs and artists have created, snapped some photos and shared it in this gallery. To be honest, I didn't know about Mr Danny Yung and his work until that day, but it sure was an eye opener. The concept behind the whole exhibition is to provide a blank figurine that represents an empty canvas full of possibilities - a platform for people to write or draw on to express their thoughts, ideas and emotions.
Tian Tian Xiang Shang is a well-known Chinese proverb that Mao Zedong once said to motivate children to work hard and achieve their dreams. It then inspired Mr Yung to create Tian Tian, a cartoon, for adults and kids all around the globe, challenging them to be curious and creative like Tian Tian. Tian Tian looks up, points to the things he sees, and asks questions: Is this my question or the future?
逾千个大小不一的“天天”塑像在新加坡来福士城（Raffles City）一楼展出。三个高的大型“天天”塑像在商场不同入口处“站岗”。展览以香港艺术家荣念 (Mr Danny Yung) 曾创作的5米高“天天向上”创意毛坯雕塑为主题。展览刚在上周末圆满结束。
Be Visually Stimulated By "Yayoi Kusama: Life Is The Heart of A Rainbow" Exhibition At The National Gallery of Singapore
Titled ‘Yayoi Kusama: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow’, it’s the first large-scale retrospective of her works in South-East Asia from the 1950s to present. To date, Kusama has amassed a vast body of work that cuts across different disciplines – filmmaking, painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, fashion, poetry, fiction and public spectacles. You might have noticed the rows of trees decorated in numerous red dots in Orchard, or visited the dotty concept store of Louis Vuitton in the past years. Yes, they are all artwork inspired by the famous Japanese artist named Yayoi Kusama.
Yayoi Kusama, the Japanese avant garde, is one of the world’s most influential artists who still lives today in Japan. Winning admirers around the world, she is best known for her signature use of polka dots as patterns and textures. Apparently, Yayoi Kusama’s works have been influenced by her nightmarish hallucinations and psychological trauma when she was young. It is said that she was born in a problematic family where her father had affairs and her mother never appreciated her artworks. She has been suffering from hallucinations since young and claimed that animals would talk to her now and then. As what she said, “if it were not for art, I would have killed myself long ago”. In some sense according to her, it is exactly those mental difficulties that “give her a generating and inspiring force for art”. Even now at the age of 88, she continues to paint.
My photo essay on Ipoh's Burps & Giggles Cafe & SG's Potato Head Cafe《绘本里的咖啡时光》is published in today's LianheZaobao 联合早报缤纷版 dated 17 August 2017! 感谢、感恩! Thrilled to see it being featured nationwide in print! Special thanks to Lianhe Zaobao, you have made my day! :)
Tai O Heritage Hotel, in the heart of Hong Kong's oldest fishing village on Lantau Island 香港古迹游: 时光倒流大澳文物酒店
Hong Kong is a city in constant flux, reinventing itself virtually every day. New buildings seem to appear overnight, shops are suddenly transformed, and everyone is always on the go. While Singapore has been criticised for not preserving a sufficient amount of its colonial architectural past, Hong Kong has been just as guilty, perhaps even more so, of failing to protect its built past. Yet one kind of building in Hong Kong has managed to escape the demolition balls.
Nestled in the Lantau Island is Tai O, otherwise known as the Venice of Hong Kong. Over many decades, Hong Kong has gone through rapid changes and as one of the world's leading financial hubs it is easy to forget its humble origins when it first started out as a fishing village. Tai O is now a hugely popular spot for locals, expats and tourists alike and is one of the very few places that still reflects the true history of this beautiful bustling city. Surrounded by vast blue stretches of ocean, its iconic stilt houses built above the water with luscious green hills as its backdrop, Tai O is a uniquely charming place and the Tai O Heritage Hotel is an unusual blend of the city’s history and its preoccupation with commerce.
大澳渔村是上一次香港行，其中一个让我印像很深刻的地方。大澳文物酒店（Tai O Heritage Hotel）前身为大澳警署，位于香港大屿山大澳石仔埗街渡轮码头旁的小丘上。19世纪末的白色古典建筑，精致优雅。虽然规模不大 (只有九间海景房)，但是因为酒店属于二级历史建筑，又多了几分复古风情。遊走大澳，不妨考虑在饶富历史的文物酒店住上一晚，偶尔放缓城市人的急促脚步，去感受香港独有的水乡情。其实无论是大澳还是大澳警署，都是一段香港的历史。在这里停歇，细听这里的一砖一瓦，揭开一页页影响深远的历史故事，对城市人来说，是一种享受。
Manual machinists are skilled, dexterous individuals who drill, cut and shape items both manually and with machine tools. Working in industrial shops or plants with blueprints and specifications, machinists produce anything from bed springs to auto parts.
Working with exacting precision is a large part of manual machinists' jobs. They are responsible for cutting, slicing, drilling and in some cases repairing the very machines that they work with. Machinists must operate with care at all times. Safety is important when working with steel, glass and metal. Some of their work involves heat-processed or lubricated items as well, and the machines and parts they use can be heavy and dangerous. Manual machinists usually develop skills working with specific equipment, tools and shop machinery while enhancing their manual dexterity on the job.
It's sad to say but manual machining is a dying trade. This trade is dying in a big hurry. Cheaper imported tooling and the decline of manufacturing in this country are causing most machine shops to either shift their focus or close down. Jobs are scarce and there's no hope for a reversal either. What few jobs that are left won't last much longer either. The good days are long gone.
It was on a walk through Jalan Besar that I spotted this Hup Yick Engineering Pte Ltd hardware shop (exact address is 84 Horne Road) and here I met Mr Yee Chin Hoon, a machinist aged 69 who has been practicing his craft for more than 50 years, since he first worked for his father as an apprentice at 16. Mr Yee is one of the last few manual machinists in Singapore. Mr Yee is hoping that someone is interested on an apprenticeship with him to learn the ropes so that Hup Yick will carry on. But with no takers, it is likely that Mr Yee will retire soon. A book titled "The Machinist" was launched recently by three aspiring designers to commemorate this disappearing skill in Singapore.
Some of China's most famous 20th century identities lived in Shanghai and many of their former residences still stand. Because of its relatively young age, Shanghai does not have the ancient historical sites similar to those found in Beijing or Xi'an. But, in its favor, the city attracted some of the most influential and important people in both politics and culture in a critical phase of Chinese history. Some of the Shanghai residences of these notable figures have been preserved and some are open to the public. They offer a fascinating insight into the lives of the people who helped shape modern China. One of them is the former residence of Soong Chingling in Shanghai which is still maintained as a shrine to her memory. I had the chance to visit the place.
A freelance Singapore-based travel photographer / photojournalist. I seek the extraordinary, but finds beauty in the everyday. Life is interesting, capture it.
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