Updated: 2016-04-05 08:48
By Chitralekha Basu in Hong Kong(HK Edition)
New York-based photographer John Chee's evocative snapshots of his childhood home, Kowloon City, are a tribute to his dad and the era that he belonged in.
"The order is rapidly fadin'," sang Bob Dylan. While the old receding to make way for the new is an inevitable and irreversible trend the world over, the impulse to give that which is transient a permanent place in art remains equally strong. For New York-based photographer John Chee the urge to freeze moments spent in one of the last surviving old neighborhoods in Kowloon City, assumed greater meaning as these snapshots were also meant as a tribute to his father who died in 2014. To him the demise of Chee senior, who had spent most of his life in Kowloon, signified the end of an era that belonged in Kowloon's pre-gentrification days.
Although Chee's photographs of Kowloon - recently on show at the Stone Houses gallery and published in a book titled My Father's Kowloon City - are apparently about nostalgia, he seems acutely aware of the present context. The panoramic view of Hong Kong, shot from the top of Lion Rock for example, shows Kowloon City as a tiny patch in an intense jungle of rectilinear buildings.
Chee's images are more replete with nuanced realism than romance of the old. Shot using both analog and digital technology, the traditional and the modern come together in more senses than one in Chee's evocative portraits. Each frame contains a story, or, at least, the beginning of one.
(HK Edition 04/05/2016 page9)