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24.06.01 – 2024.06.30 

Opening Reception: 2024.6.01, Saturday, 16:30-18:00 

Collector Sharing Session: 2024.6.29, Saturday, 15:00-16:30 

Curator: Edwin K. Lai

Venue: Lumenvisum | L2-02, JCCAC, 30 Pak Tin Street, Shek Kip Mei, Kowloon  

Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 11:00-13:00, 14:00-18:00, Closed on Mondays (except Public Holiday) 

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All people who are interested in the history of Chinese and Hong Kong photography have heard of Lai Fong and his studio. Afong, as he was generally referred, was one of the earliest Chinese photographers in Hong Kong and China, and ‘Afong Photographer’, the studio he had founded in 1870, was the most famous photographic studio in Hong Kong before the Second World War. Afong was not only well known in China ─ many photographers had imitated after his name and business ─ he also enjoyed international reputation and historical status. During his time illustrated magazines in the West had published his photographs, and even today, one can easily find his name in the index of every book that studies the history of China and Hong Kong.

It is therefore surprising that for more than a century, very little is actually known about Lai Afong the person, his life and career, his studio and the photographs that it has produced, let alone any serious academic study or publication on the photographer or the studio. Consequently, collector Mr Siu Him Fung’s book Photographs of Early Hong Kong by Afong is a genuine groundbreaking publication in last year: not only it contains more than three hundred photographs by Afong ─ many are from Mr Siu’s own collection ─ it also discusses in detail the historical facts of Afong and his family, the studio and the photographers it has employed, and information in relation to the photographs. For me, the contribution that Photographs of Early Hong Kong by Afong has made in the study of Chinese and Hong Kong photography history is simply tremendous.

Thanks to Mr Siu’s generosity in lending his collection to this exhibition, so that we can see as many as forty-two photographs of Afong’s views of Hong Kong. This is the first exhibition that we can learn so much of the renowned Hong Kong photographer. We can also see in this exhibition how Hong Kong was represented in photographs in late nineteenth century. Finally, there are photographic records of significant historical events in this period too.

Curator Bio

Edwin K. Lai obtains his MPhil. and Ph.D. degrees at the Fine Arts Department of the University of Hong Kong, and is an internationally well-known scholar of Hong Kong and Chinese photography history. Lai’s photo-works have exhibited in U.K., Japan and Hong Kong; since 2008 he has curated a number of art and photography exhibitions, including “Imaging Hong Kong Contemporary Photography Exhibition” (2008), “First Photographs of Hong Kong 1858-1875” (2010), “Post-Straight: Contemporary Hong Kong Photography” (2012), “Colour Hong Kong 40s-60s” (2014), “Rare Encounters: Nancy Sheung’s Portraits of Hong Kong Women in the 1960s” (2015), “Motor Cars: Cars and Lifestyles in Hong Kong in the Twentieth Century” (2016), and “Another Round: Re-Imagining COVID-19” (2022).