“Hong Kong Stories 1960s” is a solo exhibition showcasing vintage gelatin silver prints by the late photographer Yau Leung (1941-1997). Displaying familiar and nostalgic scenes of a bygone era, the photography of Yau Leung documents a rapidly changing Hong Kong spanning the colonial days from 1960s to the year of the handover. His work has long been treasured as an integral part of the visual and cultural memory of Hong Kong. This is the first exhibition of Yau Leung’s vintage gelatin silver prints since his death, where all prints were hand-printed by the artist. This exhibition is also organised on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Yau’s death.
Born in 1941, Yau Leung was one of the foremost photographers of post-war Hong Kong. In 1997, Yau passed away suddenly at the age of 56, leaving behind a precious trove of photographs, including the rare vintage gelatin silver prints showcased in this exhibition at Blindspot Gallery. All exhibited works were hand-printed by the artist.
Yau Leung started his professional career as a photographer in Shaw Studios, taking photos of glamorous stars, actors and actresses. However, as a passionate and devoted photographer with a love for the proletariat of Hong Kong, Yau constantly turned his lens towards the streets and the people that inhabit and animate it, especially children and the working class. Yau worked with a mélange of pictorial photography and documentary photojournalism, through which he produced candid yet masterfully composed images of the old Hong Kong.
These vintage works of Yau Leung can also be seen as archival materials of immense historical value, documenting the living conditions and social transition from post-war hardship to the stability and prosperity in the 80s to 90s, when Hong Kong was a traditional Chinese city on the cusp of irreversible westernisation and modernisation. The iconic image of the Two Women, Gloucester Road, 1961, for instance, testifies to a transitional moment when the traditional Chinese garb is still worn in daily life.
There is a tender timelessness in Yau’s image, a universal pathos shared by a reading boy on a street stall, a home-bound city dweller in a typhoon, and an old lady risking her life to gather water during water rationing, all through the eyes of an itinerant photographer who sees Hong Kong through the viewfinder. Interviews are welcomed and can be arranged.
Yau Leung (1941-1997) is widely regarded as one of Hong Kong’s most significant and accomplished documentary photographers. During his lifetime, Yau was an acclaimed photography editor working for various organisations, periodicals and publications: from 1965 to 1970, he was a photographer at Cathay Organisation (Hong Kong); in 1971, he worked for Southern Screen of Shaw Brothers Studio; in 1973, he founded Photography Life; and in 1980, he became editor-in-chief of Photo Art. Yau had a solo exhibition at Hong Kong Arts Centre in 1994. After his death, his retrospective exhibitions were held at Hong Kong Arts Centre in 1998, Lianzhou Foto Festival in 2005, Guangdong Museum of Art in 2006, and Dali International Photography Festival in 2009. Yau Leung edited and published several books of his own work, including Lu Feng Stories (1992), Hong Kong Childhood (1994) and City Vibrance: Hong Kong (1997). Hong Kong Stories 1960’s-1970’s was published after his death in 1999.