With a day job making perfect images, photographer Chris Wong embarked on a very different personal project, titled Now and Then, to capture the true story of his hometown of Hong Kong.
With a background in graphic design and photography, Chris Wong established his photography services business The Brand Photo, to cover all sorts of commercial projects from advertising to brochures. On the side, however, his focus falls in a completely different area of image-making, one in which it’s the imperfections stand out as hallmarks of success. Having just published his book Now and Then, a collection of polaroids that capture Hong Kong’s buildings as moments in history, he talked to us about the beauty that can be found in real life.
For Chris, what makes the polaroid fascinating is its purity and imperfections. “When I was a student, I loved playing around with the instantaneous feeling and texture of polaroids which give so much room for the artist to explore. I wanted opportunities to get away from the technical tinkering of digital photography and capture life in its most simple, pure form,” he says. For his book Now and Then, published in 2018, what that process has delivered is an artistic collection of 51 photographs taken over the course of a year, each capturing the timeless aesthetic of Hong Kong. Focusing on colonial-style buildings in the city, including former central police station Tai Kwun, the Court of Final Appeal and Béthanie, a 19th Century sanatorium, Chris’s focus has been on capturing a sense of the time these places have born witness to. “The book is about time. And, you can see, then and now,” he shares.
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Coupled with a nostalgic tinge embedded in his photographs’ faded hues, the hardback collection showcases Hong Kong’s past as it stands in the present, preserving these moments in time. “When people were looking over Now and Then at the Book Fair, they said they felt the photos had a real life-like feel that made them want to put a finger to the page,” he says of people’s responses.
Collating Now and Then was a unique experience for Chris. “Seeing each and every one of these photos of the buildings having a connection to one another was pretty remarkable. Hong Kong is so interesting for photography. There are so many stories to be found, and I really loved capturing moments one by one, capturing each period in time. There is so much you can gather of the past simply from a photo of an empty building.”
Getting the images published in book form wasn’t an easy journey. “It took a lot of time, and I had to make sure that every picture would give the reader a different perspective,” he says. “As an editor, photographer and writer all in one, in addition to all the marketing aspects, it was a tough process.” But, it’s one that more than paid off – his book launch has been a success in Hong Kong and Taipei. “Honestly, my advice for any photographer beyond just brushing up on technicalities is that you have to maintain that personal style of yours. There are no shortcuts, but there are few things more satisfying than succeeding in a personal project.”