A new exhibition of photographs at the Asia Society Hong Kong Centre show Hong Kong as it was around the middle of the last century. The images span some 30 years of change: from the post-war recovery of 1946-7, through the resilience of the 1950s, to the resurgence of the 1960s and 1970s. The photos were taken by three photographers: Hedda Morrison, Lee Fook Chee and Brian Brake.
Morrison arrived in Hong Kong in 1946 and although she stayed here for just six months she photographed almost every aspect of the colony. Her passion was to record the lives of ordinary people. Her photos reflect a masterful eye and some of her images, used in the Government's 1946 Annual Report, prompted my search for her negatives.
Lee Fook Chee, then a sailor, landed in Hong Kong in 1947 and in the 1950s made a frugal living selling his photos to tourists on The Peak. Lee was entirely unknown until 2010, when his treasure trove of negatives came to my attention. Like many immigrants of that time, Lee had a gritty resilience. Half a century later, he moved to a public housing flat where he established a darkroom and began to print his 1950s negatives.
New Zealand-born Brian Brake first arrived in Hong Kong in 1957, after a journey from London that took him through the Middle East and on to East Asia. Brake's photographs encompassed very different places and people – including China in the late 1950s. From 1962 to 1976 he was based in Hong Kong, and he photographed widely here. In the early 1970s, TIME-LIFE commissioned Brake to photograph Hong Kong for its "The Great Cities" book series.
The exhibition has almost 90 large-framed photos by Morrison, Lee and Brake, and also many panel stories to explain more about the history and background of the images. Together they present almost every aspect of Hong Kong as well as insights into each of the photographer's lives and work.
The exhibition is presented by the Asia Society Hong Kong Centre, originated by The Photographic Heritage Foundation, and curated by Edward Stokes. It is being held in the Asia Society's Chantal Miller Gallery, near Admiralty MTR. The exhibition runs until 6 March. Admission is free. Opening hours:
Tuesday - Sunday 11am - 6pm; last Thursday of every month 11am - 8pm.
Exhibition Sponsor: Dr Patrick SC Poon SBS.
Exhibition Supporters: Karson Choi BBS; Swire Group Charitable Trust; Ng Teng Fong Charitable Foundation.
Photo copyrights: Hedda Morrison photos, President and Fellows of Harvard College; Lee Fook Chee Photos, The Estate of Lee Fook Chee; Brian Brake photos, Wai-man Lau.