Photograph of a block of pink and grey-green Hong Kong high rise buildings, captured so that they completely fill the frame. The small rows of windows appear dizzying in their vast numbers.

From High-Rises to the Street: A Look Back at Michael Wolf’s Photographs

Earlier this year, German-born, Hong Kong–photographer Michael Wolf passed away. An award-winning photographer who first moved to Hong Kong in 1994 while working as a photojournalist, he used his camera to focus in on the structures of megacities as well as the consequences of urbanisation on humans. We invited writer Blues Wong to pay tribute to Wolf’s depictions of Hong Kong and other places in Asia. Below, he traces Wolf’s two distinct thematic directions, looking at both the architectural level and the street level.

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A handful of world-class photographers have propelled Hong Kong to international fame. There are the ‘good old days’ colonial photographs taken by John Thomson (1837–1921) in the 1860s–1870s, and by Ho Fan (1931–2016) in the 1950s–1960s. There is Greg Girard (born 1955–), who featured the underground world of Kowloon Walled City in the 1980s–1990s and turned it into an unorthodox icon of Hong Kong. Joining this exemplary line-up, the late German photographer Michael Wolf (1954–2019) was a contemporary artist focused on Asia, with an emphasis on China and Hong Kong. Through his lens, he revealed our embedded Hong Kong cultural identity after the return of sovereignty to mainland China in 1997.

Close-up of a film reel showing multiple frames of a scene in which three people talk to each other outside a building The images are very slanted as the film reel is lying horizontally.

A Brief Introduction to Film Restoration in Taiwan

For the past four years, the Taiwan Film Institute has been undergoing a film restoration project to restore old Taiwanese films. M+ Screenings: Restored Images from Taiwan (4–6 October), co-presented by M+ and Kwang Hwa Information and Culture Center, brings together moving image works that are part of the Taiwan Film Institute’s undertaking.

Below, we invite Dr Wang Chun-Chi, director of the Taiwan Film Institute, to explain how film restoration works, why it happens, and the debates that occur within the field.

What is film restoration?

Dr Wang: Film restoration means rescuing and preserving old films with deteriorating stock. For us, this means both preserving and conserving the film reels, cleaning and repairing them, and then converting them to a digital format. Each year we have a group discussion about what to digitally restore out of the films we have already preserved.

Film restoration allows us to discover films we may never have seen before, or have only read about in books. For example, many people think that we have lost all Taiwanese-language films, but they do exist—they just need to be restored.

How does film restoration work?

An artwork print featuring Chinese characters against a dark background is mounted on a sheet of clear polyester in a frame, held together by clips and held up on a metal framework. The work is being backlit, with light shining through. A group of people stand around the set-up, and a camera is pointed at the work.

How Do Museums Photograph Objects?

Every day museum visitors take photographs of objects and artworks with their phones. But a museum’s process of photography is much more involved. At M+, the team has been working creatively in a temporary facility whilst preparing for their move to a purpose-built studio in the new building in West Kowloon.

Below, the Rights and Reproductions team at M+, which leads the museum’s digitisation process, talks about what this process looks like.

Interviewees:

  • Tom Morgan, Manager, Rights & Reproductions
  • Davis Leung, Copyright & Images Officer
  • Dan Leung, Picture Editor

What is ‘digitisation’?

Tom: It is about creating digital images of objects in our collections. In a wider sense, digitisation also includes text records around the image; anything involved in representing collection objects digitally.

A woman smiles at the camera, sitting in front of a video projected on the wall of a gallery space. The video shows a blindfolded woman walking in front of a traditional Chinese temple with her arms stretched out in front of her.

From 1989 to Now: May Fung on Video Art

Hong Kong filmmaker May Fung has been active for over forty years in the Hong Kong film and arts community. Her work She Said Why Me (1989) is currently on view in the exhibition Five Artists: Sites Encountered. It depicts a woman walking blindfolded through the bustling streets of Hong Kong. These images are interspersed with black-and-white archival footage of women in various public contexts. The constant shifting of sites and the sense of unease displayed by the blindfolded woman clearly express the anxiety felt by the city’s residents—especially women—as they attempt to explore their collective identity during a period of political uncertainty.

Fung recently gave a talk in conjunction with the exhibition. Below is an edited transcription, touching on her creative process and the history of video art in Hong Kong.

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May Fung: The present situation in Hong Kong reminds me of my younger days. My work She Said Why Me was made in 1989, the year of the June 4th incident. I was thirty-seven. Leading up to and in response to the Tiananmen gathering, there were all kinds of demonstrations in Hong Kong. I was very active. Whenever there was a demonstration, I would go to the street with my video camera and film everything.