Born and raised in Singapore. Currently living & working in Hong Kong. Visual storyteller and art director, HanShun Zhou shot his first photograph in his early teens, with his father’s Minolta SRT. After graduating from Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts Singapore and RMIT University, he went on to make a living working in various creative agencies in Singapore, Malaysia, China and Hong Kong. After more than a decade in the commercial creative world, Zhou decided to resume and pursue his photography seriously and actively. In this blog post, he shares his project “A Better Tomorrow”, exploring the tensions of life and in the streets.
Zhou was one of the finalists in the 2016 Photolucida Critical Mass, and has participated in various group exhibitions and photography festivals internationally. The most recent is the upcoming 2017 Photometria “Parallel Voices”, 2016 Addis FotoFest in Ethiopia and PhotoNola in New Orleans.
Please share the concept of this project
This project aims to investigate the tensions of life as it is lived in the backstreets of a city filled with allure. Since the early 1990s, Hong Kong had established itself as a global financial centre, a regional hub for logistics and freight and one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia. It was a place where anything could be possible, given its can-do attitude of its people. It is also a city with some of the wealthiest people in the world. But where there’s plenty, there’s bound to be scarcity. So to better understand this city, I took to my camera. By documenting the daily life of its people and culture, I attempt to capture the mood and emotions of this city.
Where were these images taken and with what equipment?
These photographs were taken all over Hong Kong, mainly with the Leica CL with Summicron 40mm and Leica M6.
The images describe a certain way of life, indicating simple day-to-day activities. Can you share a story or two of these images that you might recall or find compelling?
There was one photograph which I took at Kam Shan Country Park, also known as Monkey Hill. It was almost sunset, and I was calling it a day, after an entire day of shooting. Then near the bus-stop, I saw this elderly woman with a trolley, being surrounded by monkeys. They were basically trying to get her to feed them with the vegetables and fruits in her trolley. I took more than a roll of film of that situation, standing less then an arm’s length from one of the monkeys.
Another photograph was also taken at Monkey Hill, right in front of the public toilet. I came out of the toilet and saw this man sitting on the floor, chatting and drinking with his friend. Then from a distance, a wild boar appeared. That man picked up some roasted meat beside him and tempted the wild boar towards him. And there were a couple of monkeys further back, waiting for their opportunity to snatch some food away from the man. Later on, I learnt that the man, who works as a chef, comes here quite often after work to feed wild boars with leftovers from his restaurant.
There is a strong play with shadows and light. Is this something you were experimenting with or is it part of your particular photographic style?
I always try to look for interesting lighting conditions whenever I can. Light almost always make something look special.
What does ‘A better tomorrow’ mean to you?
For me, it suggests an attitude towards life. Everyone is doing his/her best day in day out, to have a better life. In a way, it’s also suggesting the struggles of the ordinary people. On a more personal note, it’s also what made me leave my home country to venture abroad, seeking to do better.
What do you find best in terms of performance with your Leica M6 for the type of work you do?
For me, the best thing about the Leica M6 is how silent the shutter is for a film camera. It’s also built like a tank, so I don’t have to worry if I do accidentally drop it.
You mention that you use photography as a powerful visual tool to understand culture and society? Can you please explain this a bit more in depth?
Well, I guess for me, photography is way to explore. I mean, to understand anything, whether it’s culture or society, the only way is to explore. and find out things. The more I explore, the more that I see, the more that I hear, the more that I understand about a place.
Lastly, are there other projects you might be working on that you want to share with readers?
I’m also currently working on a project titled “Frenetic City”. It’s based on my initial reaction when I first landed in Hong Kong. It’s not made with a Leica though.
Thank you HanShun!
To know more about HanShun Zhou, please visit his official website.