The 11th edition of Angkor Photo Festival (12/5–12) currently being held in Siem Reap, Cambodia, resumes the Guest Curator Showcase following a hiatus in 2014. For this edition, the festival has invited Fiji-born photographer Kevin WY Lee to curate a selection of works showcasing photographers from Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Lee is currently based in Singapore and is the creative director and the founder of Invisible Photographer Asia (IPA), a platform that seeks to promote photography in Asia through exhibitions, publishing, workshops, education and community outreach. IPA has partnered with a number of organizations such as the Angkor Photo Festival, Objectifs Centre for Photography and Film, National Museum of Singapore, AO Photo Books (Hong Kong), among others, to raise the profile of many who are actively engaged in the art of photography in the region. It is a timely and an admirable endeavor and more of this kind of active engagement and promotion would not only benefit photographers, but it will most certainly elevate the international profile of Asian photography.
Among the 18 photographers showcasing in this year’s Angkor Photo Festival, 12 hail from Hong Kong and 6 from Taiwan. Varying in age, education, experience and background, their works all share a common aspiration in exploring their place in the world they live in. It is an eclectic collection of works with no dominance of a specific theme nor does it share a predilection for a common stylistic approach. Several photographers were deeply grounded in the documentary tradition, exposing a sense of dedication and affection for their home country. Taiwanese Guan Xiao Rong’s work of Lanyu (Orchid Island) residents in the 1980s—whose livelihood was threatened by the government’s decision to build a nuclear waste facility on the island—were seen alongside Lam Chun Tung’s document on the elderly in Hong Kong and Ducky Tse’s images of Hong Kong’s pre-handover scenes equally shares the same dedication.
It is perhaps impossible to showcase Taiwan’s photography without mentioning Chang Chao-Tang, whose works, spanning more than 50 years, bears far-reaching witness to Taiwanese history. In 2013, Taipei Fine Arts Museum held Chang’s first comprehensive retrospective exhibition, which subsequently was also shown in that year’s Angkor Photography Festival. It is no surprise that his work is also included again this year. Meanwhile, a younger generation Taiwanese Tou Yun-Fei, whose work leans towards fine art photography, has produced a series of anthropomorphic portraits of canines, titled “Memento Mori,” which ultimately reveals more about the spectator than the spectacle.
A number of Hong Kong photographers included in this showcase do share a common background, having worked as a photojournalist either in newspaper or wire agency at one point in their lives. While some are still grounded in their photojournalism career, others have taken a different path. From photos of the 1989 Tiananmen protest by veteran press photographer, Wong Kan Tai, to Vincent Yu’s images of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake in Japan and Lam Yik Fei’s coverage of the 2014 Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong, which have been distributed worldwide via Getty Images and Bloomberg News Photos. Dustin Shum, who worked as a photojournalist for more than ten years, is now immersed in fine art photography. His quiet and yet surreal formal portraits of Hong Kong’s housing estates will one day prove to be an invaluable historic document.
In his curatorial statement, Lee expressed his hopes that through this opportunity in introducing works from Taiwan and Hong Kong photographers to a Southeast Asian audience, a dialogue will ensue and perhaps more exchanges between the regions will take place. I take much encouragement from this noble task but I only wish that more women participants were included.
Billy Kung is photo editor at ArtAsiaPacific.