“From Hong Kong with love…”
Obsequious can be such a nice word – used within context of course.
The other evening some friends and I were chatting before taking our dinner. Photographers being photographers, much of conversation was centred around photography and other photographers.
For some reason, Cartier-Bresson’s name came up and with that, what seem to be the usual jokes about the “decisive moment” and, “are you decisive?” and the rest of it.
Decisive or not, it seems that Cartier-Bresson was quite obsequious in this regard, as in his “decisive moment” and sticking faithfully to that expression.
The “Decisive Moment”
OK, what’s all this got to do with this image? We mentioned the “decisive moment” did we not?
Well, decisive or not, this image is a moment of some description. To me, it makes no difference whether the moment was decisive or not. More a matter of just getting on with it. I’m not Cartier-Bresson, not even a fan. And, Cartier-Bresson is not me. Different times, different places, different occasions, different results. Just the way it is.
Back to the image. In isolation, this particular image may be one thing. In a sequence, it may be become something else. We’ll get to the sequence part in another post.
“From Hong Kong with love…”
So, what’s this image about? In fact, what is this whole “From Hong Kong with Love” thing about?
“Then and Now”
To put things into context. Over the past few months I’ve been working on a “Then and Now” documentary project, working with a series of reference images taken some 50 or so years ago. Where? Here in Hong Kong.
From a site near to where this image was taken, there used to be a photographer who had set up shop nearby to ply his trade.
Back in the day
As I recall, his stand was a barrowed of sorts – as in a wheeled cart with a counter and onto which were affixed some poles. These poles were festooned with handcrafted black and white prints featuring, what were later to become, some of the more iconic images of Hong Kong of that period.
At the time, he would approach tourist such as these to ask if he could to take their pictures – either as individuals, couples or groups.
This was back in the days of film and prints. At that time, the tourist would either have to return to this to his pitch at this spot to collect their pictures or, if the the pictures had been paid for, they were posted on to them.
The Digital Age
In more recent times – as in the digital age – a whole bunch of photographers with their digital cameras, colour inkjet printers, batteries and generators took over this pitch and tried to do much the same thing – this time supplying colour prints and this, after just a short wait.
Over the last year or so, all these purveyors of the craft have since “disappeared”. Seems now, that they’ve been replaced by the cell phone and the selfie. I mean, who needs to get in the way of a good thing? Who knows who looks better? Who knows that better pose, that knowing smile or that coy fall of the head or alluring wink better than the person taking their own selfie?
Its all here
I mean, here it all is – a great backdrop, great big skies and, with all this, great pictures – or not? I mean, how can anyone go wrong with this combination and great smile?
With of this, gone are those awkward poses, geeky stick-on smiles and/or that great reluctant, cold shoulder thing that were usually reserved and trotted out for those “photographers” who were willing to take our pictures for pretty penny. Well, in this case, Hong Kong Dollars.
With a good selfie, we can now “flesh it out” with something that bounds on being a little more genuine, a little more real or, so we would like to have it.
So, with this and when those selfie images are posted to your favourite social media platform, you can now genuinely say, “From Hong Kong with love” and, where it will almost certainly look like you’re really having a good time, this to the envy of all your fans out there – real and otherwise and, really or not.
I mean, can I argue with any of this? No, of course not. I’m just a facilitator in the process – of the “recording process” that is.
And the “Then and Now” component? Well, because of copyright, confidentiality and all that, I cannot show any of the before images.
In the “NOW”
However, as a “NOW” thing, all this is about as “NOW” as it gets – this in terms of Hong Kong in its present state, in this present time and the people who come to visit this city today.
Selfies are a very “NOW” thing, the fashions – as in the casual clothing worn – are where these people are today and all these moments are very “NOW” moments.
These moments – no, not mine – are as about as precious now as they were then when they were taken then. Other than the processes involved in making pictures, what’s different here from those images found in one of your grandmother’s picture albums and those images floated out on the web? Very little that can I see.
Ah yes, different and difference. Yes, there is a “difference” here. The people in front of my lens are NOT “subjects” as per the images of the photographer I’ve been “shadowing” in this project. In a sense, I’ve been photographing the photographs, photographing the photographer so to speak. While that photographer was photographing the Hong Kong of times back then, I’m photographing Hong Kong now – as in taking pictures of people taking selfies of themselves.
This picture and other pictures making up this series, are not part of any real remit other than me photographing what is going on Hong Kong now.
Going back to that “decisive moment” conversation and the word “obsequious”. This stuff and its pursuit is so “obsequious” that it almost borders on the trite, the cliched and the kitsch and, that’s about as “NOW” as all this gets. Enjoy…
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originally written and posted on 140625 – reposted on 190119 – revised on 230327.