Hong Kong People

    Hong Kong People

    As arresting as Tim Hall's photographs are to viewers today, it is safe to say that they will affect a future generation with even greater power. Individual images such as those of embracing sampan ladies and the bomb disposal expert wholly succeed on aesthetic counts. Their intuitive balance, the strength of character they project and the emotional weight they bear contribute to the kind of gravity found in the very finest photography.

Their particular eloquence - and their relevance for posterity - derives from the fact they stand collectively as nothing less than a pictorial meditation on time, especially at this specific juncture in Hong Kong's history. Like any good essay, these photographs operate on different levels. The faces of the Star Ferry boatmen reveal their own years of experience and carry echoes of Hong Kong's nautical heritage. The Kowloon fashion victims blaze with the brazenness of youth. The Sikhs bear qualities that tie them to ancestors of an earlier age.

    Moreover, these images constitute a snapshot of Hong Kong as it was at a precise point in time, on the cusp of transition. They are a time capsule no less than the work of Walker Evans of 1930s America and Matthew Brady who recorded scenes of the U.S. Civil War.

They are also a reminder that while the reams of newsprint being produced about the territory at the time of the transition deal with its macro-economic achievements and political challenges, they tell only part of the story. The real wealth of Hong Kong, its past and its present, are its people.

Robert Sherbin - Hong Kong June 1997

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