Off-sets: Photographies of Hong Kong Cinema

Christopher Doyle, Fong Ho Yuen, Sharon Salad, Lo Yuk Ying, Man Lim Chung, Okazaki Hirotake, Wing Shya, Karen Cloudy Tang, Jupiter Wong, Louie Wong, Justine Yeung, Tim Yip
21.10 - 27.11.2022
Opening at 18:00 on 21.10
L0 & L1 Galleries 12:00-20:00 daily
Common Spaces 10:00-22:00 daily
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© Wing Shya, '2046', 2004, Courtesy of Block 2 Distribution Limited

This is not a film stills exhibition, at least not in the usual sense.


‘Off-sets: Photographies of Hong Kong Cinema’ brings together 12 image makers, many of whom have contributed to shaping the Hong Kong cinescape through their multiple roles as directors, art directors, cinematographers, production and stills photographers, costume and set designers, and journalists. Their expansive use of photography results in a broad range of visual constructions that reflect varying means and intentions.

Fong Ho Yuen, 'Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain', 1982-83 © 2010 Fortune Star Media Limited

As a vessel of popular culture and collective expression, a film can carry the consciousness of a society and its makers at a particular point of time. From behind-the-scenes preparation to on-set performance, filming and production, image makers assume, whether consciously or subconsciously, the role of a ‘medium’ or ‘mediator’ — capturing images, messages, or thoughts, and conveying them to the audience.


Fong Ho Yuen, colloquially known as Yuen Gor, was once an apprentice of in-house production photographer Chan Yuk, and has worked from the 1970s studio system through to Hollywood productions in the digital age. Exploring Fong’s large quantity of film stills, we can witness a number of milestones in the development of Hong Kong cinema, and also sense the industry’s relentless work ethics and dedication, as well as the social attitudes of the times.


The revered City Entertainment Magazine (formerly Film Bi-weekly) and its column Exposure gave one of its founders Lo Yuk Ying great freedom, on and off the set. Reporting on industry figures in the 1970s and 80s just as she documented the streets, Lo made expressive black-and-whites of people in settings with an all-encompassing 28mm lens: a reveal of characteristics or states of mind otherwise unseen on screen.


Later on, in the early 1990s, Louie Wong also served as a staff photographer with City Entertainment Magazine. In Wong’s folders overflowing with 30 years of work, article cutouts, and filmstrips and contact prints with frame after frame of unedited images, we see not only cultural icons of Hong Kong cinema’s golden age, but also the sense of freedom and possibilities burgeoning at the turn of the century.

© Louie Wong, 'Contact Prints Series', 1991-92

Photography and film are both conceived by a desire to make sense or action from behind the viewfinder. As a narrative medium, images detached from the cinematic realm take on a life and direction of their own, gaining new meanings, and provoking queries and reflections on the industry, its people, and the environment in which they operate and create.


Tim Yip joined the industry as an art director in the mid-to-late 1980s. With the convenience of his role, and a photographer’s ability to make oneself invisible, Yip reveals moments of actors in preparation, where they overlap with their created characters and cross into a constructed dimension.


Although long-time collaborators of director Wong Kar-wai, both Wing Shya and Christopher Doyle create their own personal work that moves away from the narratives they constructed as a team. Doyle dissects, strips back, and layers over the characters we know, while Wing chooses long exposures, blurring bodies into indiscernible technicolour silhouettes in transit. Even as still images, Doyle’s collages and Wing’s photographs precipitate movement and resemble memory corrupted by time.

Jupiter Wong transitioned from an assistant director to a stills photographer early in his career, but has continued to assert his interpretation of the film narrative and stylistic decisions. Wong’s curiosity drove him to move as close as he could to grasp the verve and tension of actors at work, an energy that he equates to that of an arrow released from a bow. It is as if his lens somehow hitches on to the arrow in flight, penetrating the imagery with a momentum that still stops us in our tracks half a century later.

© Jupiter Wong, 'Clapperboard photos' series
Sharon Salad, 'The Midnight After', 2014 © Golden Scene Company Limited

Wong is also known for bringing new blood into the industry. Upon his recommendation, Hong Kong-born Japanese stills photographer Okazaki Hirotake became a member of director Johnnie To’s film crew. Starting with The Mission (1999), Okazaki went on to document many more Neo Noir films of To’s ‘Milkyway’. Another Wong apprentice is Sharon Salad, whose early work as a stills photographer includes the sci-fi The Midnight After (2014) directed by Fruit Chan. The two photographers not only encapsulate the unique aesthetics of our homegrown film genres, but also made Hong Kong’s cityscape inseparable from crime/gangster stories and dark fantasies. Over time, the imagery carries new meanings, drawing parallels between the imagination of the past and the reality of our present.

Sometimes film stills can be private albums of friends and family, or snaps of daily routines.


Karen Cloudy Tang’s stills for Sound of Silence (2022) resemble more of a documentary on the daily lives of elderly residents of a public housing estate than publicity images for a production. Even as the director of Hot Summer Days (2010), Wing Shya found time to catch playful moments shared among the actors on set, or were they just of a group of friends having a laugh on the street? In her intimate snaps of crew members waiting, napping, pulling faces, joking, and chatting, Justine Yeung drew focus to her fellow workers from the periphery of the set. Equally immediate, unadorned, and direct are Man Lim Chung’s visual records of his work as a production designer — their ordinary, everyday functionality as familiar and endearing as palm-sized 3R prints from the fotomat.

© Justine Yeung, 'Film for Fun', 2014-16
© Man Lim Chung, '2046', 1999, Courtesy of Block 2 Distribution Limited

The work in this exhibition spans various photographic styles, means, and formats. Distinct as they are, they come together to voice a tender yet steadfast dissent to the predominant on-screen narratives through which our reality is presented.

Off-sets: Photographies of Hong Kong Cinema is created under the artistic direction of Lau Ching Ping and artistic consultant anothermountainman, with exhibition consultants Winnie Fu and Dr Fiona Law, and exhibition designer Man Lim Chung.


The exhibition’s visual identity and accompanying printed matter are designed by graphic designer Tracy Ma.

© Lo Yuk Ying, Chu Yuan, 1980

Pandemic measures


1. To comply with the Government’s latest regulations under “Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance”, all visitors are required to scan the “LeaveHomeSafe” QR code and present their “Vaccine Pass” or exemption certificate before entering the venue.


2. Mandatory temperature check upon entry — participants with temperatures higher than 37.5°C will be denied admission.


3. All participants must wear a face mask at all times.


4. Maintain social distancing and avoid gatherings of more than four persons.



5. No eating or drinking inside the venue.

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