I’m very excited to share with you that my work “Trees in the Hong Kong City” won the Gold Prize (Nature/Trees, Professional) and the Silver Prize (Fine Art/Landscape, Professional) at the 2014 “Prix de la Photographie, Paris” (P×3) photography competition. A wedding photo story titled “At the Stage” was also awarded Honourable Mention in the professional category.
“Trees in Hong Kong City” is a series of photos taken with an infrared camera, making use of the special effects thermal images create to highlight the relationship between trees and the city of Hong Kong. This project began a few years ago. Due to work reasons, I often walked from the MTR Diamond Hill station to San Po Kong passing through Tai Hom Village. Once the largest squatter village in Kowloon, Tai Hom Village was an area covered with trees. Some were cotton trees (Bombex ceiba), one of those brightly flowering tree species highly visible in springtime. But as the MTR Shatin to Central Link project began, the new route falls within Tai Hom Village. The area soon turned into a construction site, with a tunnel being built underneath. Trees and birds inhabiting there are gone, making way for new residential buildings and shopping malls.
Since 2004, the government has established a Register of Old and Valuable Trees to ensure that the trees can be well preserved and maintained. Yet, there have been news reports that ancient trees collapse or die due to inadequate protection. The inconsistencies of tree management and conservation works in the city have drawn criticisms. Let me give you an example. In the housing estate where I live, there is a Phoenix tree (Delonix regia) aged more than 20 years old. As some residents complained its spreading branches were blocking sunlight into their homes, the property management sent someone to awkwardly trim the tree. While new branches are growing out of the wounded area, the tree has become infected with bacteria. It’s sad to witness a tree dying.
In addition to providing cooling shade, purifying the air and preventing soil erosion, I believe that trees help preserve memories of a city. Urban landscapes keep changing, yet trees are historical artefacts connecting urban residents to the past. While trees are constantly being chopped off in the name of development, our memories, as those uprooted old trees, are irrecoverable. We are losing touch with nature, feeling isolated amid high rises and curtain walls.
I remember a bizarre encounter which tells me about how modern life has become disconnected from nature: when a worker was about to clean the restaurant’s windows, a cockroach emerged. Not knowing how to react, the waiter frantically sprayed the cleaning product on the cockroach…
Many urbanites seem to have forgotten how our ancestors lived in harmony with nature. Perhaps the first step to re-embrace nature is to pay attention to the trees around us. This photo series creates the dreamlike infrared effect and highlights the trees in our city, hoping to promote symbiosis between urban and natural environments.
Photography is a solo undertaking, and that’s why I’m happy to be recognised in a renowned European photography competition. My heartfelt thanks to you all for your support!