【Intimate Portrait】Wandering eyes / Tse Ming Chong

(2016 July) Thanks to technological advancements in photography, capturing the fleeting moments in life is just a click away on your pocket-size digital camera or smart phone. Everything is so easy and on hand that the challenge has become rather one of choice – if you can capture any fleeting moment, which one should it be?


Tse Ming Chong is a well-known photographer and one of the founders of Lumenvisum (JCCAC Unit L2-10). With an early interest in the theatre, as a young man he enrolled in the acting course organised by a television company and for a few years was an actor on local TV. He went to Beijing to archive images of the 1989 pro-democracy students protest, but did not become a photo-journalist by profession until 1992. He went back to college and obtained a Bachelor of Communication (in Journalism) from Hong Kong Baptist University in 2003. After winning the Chevening Scholarship by the British Council, he studied at Goldsmiths University of London and gained a Master in Media and Communications. Seemingly driven and tireless in view of his achievements, paradoxically his temperament is rather relaxed and spontaneous. “The path I travelled was not planned. I just went with the flow and focused on what I felt I should and wanted to do. I am not the calculating type and have faith that tomorrow can worry about itself. ”



T: Tse Ming Chong


J: As an artist in photography, you were the curator of the community project “24 hours Photo Adventure in Kwun Tong” and have participated in various solo and group exhibitions, including “Ma Zhao Pao - Horse Race Will Continue in Hong Kong”. As a photojournalist, you have collaborated with Community Museum in a documentation project “Street as Museum-Lee Tung Street” in 2005, and your collection of images chronicling the Umbrella Movement was published in “Chronicle” in 2015. To promote education in photography, currently you are the Principal Lecturer at Hong Kong Design Institute. Your work is extensive and claims social fabric (especially Hong Kong’s) as a site of practice; do you regard photography not only as a creative medium but also your way of work and life?


T: Let me put it this way, I guess photography is my way of “capturing the essence of life”.


J: Have you always wanted to be a photographer?


T: I was a bit of an exhibitionist as a child and fell in love with the theatre during secondary school. It broadened my horizons and enriched my imagination. The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts did not exist then and the only theatrical training available was a course organised by a TV company, which I enrolled aged 21 and was classmates with the now famous Andy Lau. Subsequently, I worked as a TV actor for 2 years and remembered having a small part in the period drama “The Wild Bunch” featuring Felix Wong. But my real passion was in the theatre. So I switched to stage management work for respectively Hong Kong Repertory Theatre and Chung Ying Theatre Company instead. My job nature included archiving the productions, which sparked my interest in theatre photography.


When I was 26, I wanted to see the world and embarked on a 2 year working holiday which took me to Tibet, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Greece, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Jerusalem, France, the Netherland, Hungary and Moscow……


J: Was it a journey of “self-discovery”?


T: It was not intentional. It was just a romantic and carefree thing to do when one was young. But looking back I do realise that the experiences I had were mind opening. As a Christian, I remembered the Christmas eve I spent in Bethlehem, Israel, when just before midnight mass I wandered into a small chapel which happened to be showing a film about the life of Jesus; as the film finished and the lights went up, I found myself the only person there, and was overwhelmed by the feeling that Jesus had just directly spoken to me.


Also, while in Israel, I spent a few months working on a watermelon farm to help finance my further travels. Watching the watermelon seeds sprout, flourish as plants, blossom and bear fruits, I could not help ponder the meaning of life. Apparently, the whole meaning of the watermelon’s existence was to sacrifice itself for people’s enjoyment and nourishment. So how about me? What is the meaning of my own existence and what should I do to serve human-kind?


J: Your works are often about our city and community. Is it something you want to do for Hong Kong?


T: I had the good fortune to meet some local photographers who shared a common passion and interest in wanting to promote education and art in photography, and to document stories about Hong Kong’s development. That was the drive for starting Lumenvisum in 2007.


Through organising photo exhibitions and community projects, we aim to provide exhibition space not only for established photographers but also to promote the works of emerging talents. These include “Orientography24” which encouraged participants to explore Shamshuipo as a community, and “re:DeveŁepwent]: Kwun Tong Yue Man Square Redevelopment Documentation Exhibition VI” which engaged the public to debate issues on urban redevelopment. We hope that our work will support the enhancement of professionalism on the one hand, and help to popularise photography and encourage public engagement on the other.  


J: Would you like to introduce to us the “Hong Kong Contemporary Photography Exhibition 2016” on show this month?


T: This exhibition will feature the works of 14 Hong Kong artists, some local born and raised and others from overseas but have based their works in Hong Kong for many years; they include Dustin Shum, Lau Chi Chung, Alfred Ko, Johnny Gin, Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze, etc. They represent a wide spectrum of photographic experience, from that of an undergraduate student to a septuagenarian veteran. They share their emotional and personal views on our cityscape through their lens.


As an extension of the exhibition, we are collaborating with “European Photography”, a leading international magazine, to launch a special feature on Hong Kong photography. We hope this will help raise the profile of Hong Kong photographers on the international platform. A special limited edition in Chinese will be printed for this issue of the magazine for giving away during the exhibition.


Please click here to download《JCCAC PROGRAMMES》(2016 July issue)


More【Intimate Portrait】articles, click here