intent and commitment - for want of a better term
The images featured on this website are all a part of something. They maybe a reference to a place, to a time, to a moment, to a person – it doesn’t really matter, they all relate to something. How you relate to them maybe something very different to whatever my intentions were when I took or made these images.
In reviewing much of work and, for me to say that I’m a “landscape photographer”, may come across as something of a misstatement or a joke. You may be left to ask, “Where are the “landscapes” in all of this”? Look carefully and, you may come to understand where I’m coming from.
Not all “landscapes” have to be pristine countryside views with precise compositions, stunning light and a balance of sorts between land and sky or, shimmering reflections in pools or lakes of water. My landscapes are different. They include people and the spaces they use and occupy – the urban landscape, for want of a better term.
On the topic of landscapes, one photographer whose work I’ve come to admire immensely just recently is the work of Edward Burtynsky. Some amazing photography. The level of detail much of his work encompasses is, I find, enthralling. I find this so especially in his Quarry and Urban Mine series and the work he did on the step wells in India and elsewhere. You need to see Burtynsky’s pictures big – as in very BIG. And, once you’re in there, look for those details – they’re amazing.
I would like to say much the same about my own work. Not the “amazing” part, just the details. This is what I’m usually after in much of my own work – that and beyond the obvious.
My work is all about the details. Unlike say a fine artist’s work, the significant difference between my work and say a Vermeer or a Caravaggio, is that, the details in my work often become apparent only after I’ve taken my picture.
I don’t often make my pictures because of some certain detail. More often than not and, when I’m out and about, I react to something. It might be a situation, maybe a moment or a face. And, boom, I take my picture. It’s only in the post processing, this while selecting and prepping my images, that things are revealed or begin to emerge. This is just the way it is – the urban landscape and the human condition.
Look closely at the image above. It was only after viewing this image did I notice the lady on the right toying with her ring. Who knows what was being said here? All I could sense that this was a very personal conversation.
If there is any inspiration or influence in what I do, it may or most likely comes from the classical arts.
The level of detail in Vermeer’s work and his use of light has always intrigued me. And, while his work, or the themes around which much his work revolves, tends to be rather narrow and repetitive, there’s always that wealth of detail.
Much the same can be said about Caravaggio, referring to the detail and his amazing use of light – always singular and bold.
To balance this, I have Goya as another source of inspiration together with El Greco and his work.
When it comes to photography and photographers – of the greats, two people come to mind – Larry Burrows and W. Eugene Smith. Burrows worked hard and under extraordinary circumstances to make great and honest pictures. Eugene Smith was the greatest photo-essayist of his era. I go back to his work time and again to find peace of mind and to get a sense of where I may be going with my own work.
Finally, there’s this whole “windows/frames” and “windows/mirrors” thing. Do I frame the moment or, am I looking out of a “window” somewhere? Am I “reflecting” life or, am I viewing something? Unlike say Nan Goldin or Cindy Sherman who tend to be the subjects of their own work, I am no where to be seen – in a sense. And yet, I am indeed everywhere. If not, that picture couldn’t have been made.
The question begs, the moments I tend to frame, what are they and what do they say about me as a person, as a visual artist, as a photographer? What, if any, is the relationship between myself and my subjects or the content of my images? In viewing what is on offer here and in my photo archive, hopefully, some these questions may find an answer. Yes, you read it right – as in questions looking for answer. Sorry, I can’t help you with the answers – I’m still looking.
There’s an Asian saying, “It’s the spaces between the bars that keeps the tiger in”. This perhaps defines my work, as in studying and photographing those spaces. Just a thought…
Over the past few years, exhibitions have become crucial in the greater scheme of things – as in sharing the experience.
- “Hong Kong Through the Lens of John Thomson” – Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2018/19
- “HONG KONG – at the water’s edge” – Hong Kong Maritime Museum, 2017/18
- “Lee Fook Chee: Son of Singapore,
Photographer of Hong Kong“ – The Art House, Singapore, 2017
- “One Man’s Legacy – Lee Fook Chee’s Hong Kong“ – Hong Kong Maritime Museum, 2016
- “Harbour, City, Sky” – Hong Kong Maritime Museum, 2015 – Harbour City, March 2016
- “John Thomson’s Hong Kong: Past and Present” – Hong Kong University, 2015