Here are two videos of Freespace Happening music events in Hong Kong. These are mostly free events held on the second Sunday of each month from Autumn to Spring at the West Kowloon Cultural District in Hong Kong. The Freespace events typically include live music and dance performances a handicrafts markets and workshops. These two videos focus on the music performances. You can visit the Freespace Happening website here: www.westkowloon.hk/en/freespace
Freespace Happening October 2018
Several artists performed on the day, but the four artists featured in this video are
Emmy the Great: She grew up in Hong Kong, established a music career in England and has recently returned to the territory, This was her first performance since returning to Hong Kong. (www.emmythegreat.com)
Mocking Bullet: They are a local rock band. In Hong Kong, pop singers reign supreme, but there is also a well-established indie rock scene. (mockingbullet.bandcamp.com)
Eugene Pao X Ted Lo: Eugene Pao (guitar) and Ted Lo (piano) are legends of the local jazz scene. Besides having their own group, they have performed with many of the world’s more renowned jazz musicians. (eugenepao.com)
Gonne Choi (최고은): She is a South Korean singer-songwriter and was the headliner for this event. (iamgonne.com)
I shot the video and photos with a Fuji X100T and recorded the audio with a Roland R-05. I like the Fuji camera as it is small and has nice color tones. However, it is not a great camera for recording outdoor concerts as it is a fixed-lens camera (i.e., there is no zoom function.
Freespace Happening November 2019
Noa Drezner Flamenco Quartet: Noa is a flamenco guitarist from Israel and Spain (www.noadrezner.com).
Tommi Chan: Tomii is a local musician. He also played some lovely original compositions that I thought I had recorded, but it seems that I didn’t press the record button all the way down. You can check out his original work at tomiichan.bandcamp.com.
The Hong Hong Ballet performing the Great Gatsby. (최고은. a South Korea singer-songwriter (www.hkballet.com).
I shot the video and photos with a Sony NEX-7 and recorded the audio with a Roland R-05. I like the Fuji camera as it is small and has nice color tones. However, it is not a great camera for recording outdoor concerts as it is a fixed-lens camera (i.e., there is no zoom function).
About the Video
Photos and video by longzijun: Most of my video work has been on my free background music series, but I have also started shooting video more frequently while travelling or going out on the weekend.
To try to avoid copyright problems with the video, I have only included short excerpts of their songs, but do check out the artists to listen to more of their work.
This photo essay shows the day-to-day life of the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong during the 79-day Umbrella Movement protests that took place in the autumn of 2014. During that period, protesters occupied streets in three districts in Hong Kong with the aim of reforming elections so that Hong Kong people would be allowed to vote for the territory’s top official—the Chief Executive—and for all the lawmakers (only half of which of are directly elected).
At the time, news coverage tended to focus on tense confrontations between protesters and police. Footage of demonstrators fleeing from police and shielding themselves from teargas and pepper spray caught the world’s attention, but those images don’t represent the whole story. The aim of my photography was to try to present the individual people involved.
The protests were for the most part very peaceful. I visited the various protest sites twenty times but never encountered any violence and only witnessed a few tense scenes.
The nature of the protest changed day-by-day, hour by hour. During the evening, thousands of protesters might occupy the streets; but the next morning this might be reduced to a few hundred hardcore members manning the barricades as their comrades trooped off blurry-eyed to work or school after spending the night on the pavement.
What made Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement protests in 2014 so distinctive was young protesters’ total commitment to non-violent civil disobedience—there has been no looting and almost no vandalism aside from chalked slogans on the pavement. Unfortunately, as the protests were coming to an end, a few frustrated protesters smashed a glass panes at the entrance of the Central Government Offices, putting a blemish on what had otherwise been a remarkable show of restraint. Even the symbol of the protest movement—the umbrella—is one of resistance and protection rather than aggression and attack.
And this is ultimately what the protest was about—protection. Concerned about the growing encroachment of mainland China into the territory’s politics, media and social fabric, the student protesters maintained that in order to safeguard Hong Kong’s unique culture and identity, one of the most important measures was for Hong Kong citizens to have the freedom to nominate and elect its own leader.
The Reason for the Protest
The protest started in response to the announcement by China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) on 31 August regarding the 2017 elections for the territory’ s top political post (the Chief Executive). The announcement can be summed up as: “For the first time you will be able to elect the Chief Executive through universal suffrage, BUT we will select all the candidates for you beforehand via a selection committee.”
That proposal was in line with the Basic Law, the document that is the foundation of the One Country Two Systems policy and which is supposed to guarantee Hong Kong a certain amount of autonomy under Chinese sovereignty. However, many Hong Kong people, disenchanted with the performance of all three Chief Executives since the handover in 1997, had been hoping for greater say into who runs the territory.
The aim of the protest was to allow Hong Kong people greater say in the nomination of candidates for Chief Executive.
How the Protests Grew
The protests started as a five-day boycott (22-26 September) of college and university classes by the The Hong Kong Federation of Students (which was composed of the student unions of the territory’s eight universities). Towards the climax of the boycott, the student unions were joined by Scholarism (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scholarism), a political activist group led by 17-year-old Joshua Wong.
As part of the boycott, students protested outside the Central Government Complex in Admiralty district and demanded free, fair and open elections. A separate protest campaign—Occupy Central with Peace and Love (http://oclp.hk/)—was to begin on 1 October. This movement was led by Benny Tai, an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Hong Kong. As the name suggests, this campaign was loosely based on the Occupy Wall Street movement.
On Friday evening (26 September), the last scheduled day of the student boycott, a small group of protesters managed to push through the police cordon and past the gates outside the main government offices and…well…they just sat down around the flagpoles in the forecourt, where they were immediately ringed in by police. In keeping with the non-violent spirit of the protest, the student protesters did not attempt to vandalize or enter the government buildings. There was a lot of pushing and shoving, but the police, clad in their usual uniform—short-sleeved shirt, trousers and cap—and reflective vests, acted with restraint. During the evening two prominent student leaders were arrested at the protest site.
The next day police cleared the forecourt of protesters. In general, the police behaved reasonably, using minimal force to carry people away, but a few officers struck out with their batons and some others rashly and unnecessarily used pepper spray on students. This heavy-handed treatment of non-violent student protesters was televised live and provoked a strong public reaction. Another issue was the police’s continued detention of student leader Joshua Wong.
On Sunday morning, protesters started streaming towards the government office mainly to support the students and ensure they were not manhandled by the police. The main rallying cry was ‘protect the students‘ and not ‘occupy the streets‘. The police, now wearing helmets and with many officers clad in full riot gear, halted the protesters. I am not sure what they thought this would achieve.
The arriving protesters, blocked from progressing towards the Central Government Complex by the police, flooded into nearby streets blocking traffic on Connaught Road. To take advantage of this development, Occupy Central with Peace and Love announced an immediate start to their campaign. More and more protesters started streaming into the streets, and then police made the rash decision to try to clear the streets using tear gas and pepper spray. Because of the risks associated with using tear gas on crowds, it is generally not used against peaceful demonstrators, and it is uncertain as to whether the use of tear gas by police on that day was lawful (researchblog.law.hku.hk/2014/09/legal-authority-for-police-to-use-tear.html). In any case, its use only served to escalate the protest.
It was a hot day, so many protesters had brought umbrellas to the protest to shield themselves from the sun. The umbrella’s instead ended up being use to ward off tear gas canisters and pepper spray. This is how the Umbrella movement got its name.
While police were struggling in their attempt to clear the streets in Admiralty, protesters used social media to quickly mobilize. In a matter of minutes they were able to occupy main thoroughfares in Causeway Bay and Mongkok, opening up two new fronts for the police to try to control and sending a message of “Even if you keep us out of one place, we can easily pop up in another place.” At Admiralty, police eventually ceased the tear gas attacks and retreated back inside the main government complex. Strategically outmaneuvered, the police had lost the battle. And with the heavy-handed and violent tactics, they lost the respect of many of Hong Kong’s citizens.
I have no idea if the student leaders had planned on this kind of occupation, but at the end of the day, protesters were in control of three sites.
The Admiralty Site
The main site protest site was in Admiralty, where protesters occupied several city blocks and surrounded the main government offices, including the Legislative Council building as well as the office of the Chief Executive. On weekends and public holidays the number of protesters swelled into the tens of thousands, with numbers dwindling to several hundred in the morning as those who have stayed overnight go to school, went to work or just went home to freshen up and get some rest.
The atmosphere there was incredibly civil—kind of like a mellow folk festival, but with large rallies, small forums and informal singalongs among friends.
In November, with the weather finally starting to cool and the the government cancelling talks with the student leaders, the protesters began to settle in, setting up more and tents throughout the site.
Volunteers at Admiralty
A small army of student volunteers (as well as a number of volunteers from churches and Christian groups) helped maintain the site, providing free food, water and other essential supplies.Volunteers walked through the site to collect waste and bring it to one of several recycling stations for separation; they even gave talks on waste collection methods. Volunteers set up and manned first aid stations (whose staff includeed many medical students) and phone-recharging centers, assisted people clambering over traffic barriers and helped maintain an orderly flow of pedestrian traffic. I asked a few volunteers if they knew who was coordinating the efforts, and they all replied that no one was actually in charge; that different groups took it upon themselves to recognize a need and then work towards meeting that need.
The Study Corner at Admiralty
In early October, a study center sprang up in the middle of the site with several tables set up for students trying to keep up with their coursework.
So where did all those tables and chairs come from? Many of them were made by volunteer carpenters such as these men:
After a few weeks, the study center acquired a roof and started to look a little like a café.
The Causeway Bay Site
A second site occupied a couple of blocks in Causeway Bay, a shopping and entertainment district a few kilometers to the East of Admiraly. The site was centered on the super busy intersection outside the Sogo department store. Usually, there were only a few hundred protesters there at any given time. The mood there is also laid back, but as an occupation site, it seemed rather vulnerable—a kind of isolated outpost.
The Mongkok Site
The third site was in Mongkok, a densely populated, perpetually busy commercial and residential district across the harbor in Kowloon. Here protesters occupied the normally bustling intersection of Nathan Road and Argyle Street. The intersection was later cleared, but protesters maintained control of a few blocks of Nathan Road and another couple of blocks north of the intersection. If you watched the news and saw scuffles between different groups of civilians this is likely where that was happening. The protesters were sometimes subject to harassment and attacks. (I don’t have any photos of this, but I did take some footage of confrontations that are included here in this video).
Some of the anti-protesters were local residents who were angry with the disruption in their neighborhood, but many seemed to be hired thugs. On 3 October, for example, a group of masked men attacked protesters and pulled down stalls. The attackers were later recorded on video being ushered away by police and into waiting taxis.
Anger was directed against police, who were accused of either actively colluding with triad members or of simply looking the other way. Student leaders suggested abandoning the Mongkok site to concentrate their manpower at the main site, but the protest area in Mongkok was mainly run by grassroots activists (not student groups), and they had no intention on leaving.
Many artists visited the sites to sketch and paint works and other artists put up posters, banners and sculptures. By the end of the protests, the Admiralty site looked like an outdoor contemporary art gallery. I am not in the middle of editing those photos and posting them on my art blog. At the moment I have only completed one page: Art of the Umbrella Movement: Part 1. Paintings and Sketches
Caricature artists also dropped by from time to time to sketch participants in the. Umbrella Movement.
Press & Researchers
Reporters came from around the world.
In addition, local universities conducted research at the sites.
The police had a tough time as they had to work long hours and put up with a lot of abuse. In the end, they were probably the biggest ‘losers’ in this battle. It became clear that the role of the police had become politicized and they had become a kind of tool for suppressing dissent.
Did Most Hong Kong People Support the Protests ?
It is safe to say that most Hong Kong citizens would have liked a greater say in the choice of Chief Executive, but it is unclear whether this is mainly due to their dissatisfaction with all three post-handover leaders (Tung Chee-hwa, Donald Tsang and C. Y. Leung) or a deep desire for democracy and political self-determination.
Not everyone in favor of increased democracy, however, agreed that protests were the best way forward. Among Hong Kong residents opposed to the protests are those who:
preferred a less-confrontational wait-and-see approach in the hope that China would gradually become a more open and democratic country
were somewhat supportive of the protests, but felt the students hade made their point and should now pack it in
had resigned themselves to the belief that the mainland’s grip over Hong Kong would inevitably become even tighter over time, so students should just return to classes, work harder, graduate and think about emigrating
saw Hong Kong’s future as being inextricably intertwined with China and believed that if one had a more positive outlook, it would be possible to take advantage of all the things China has to offer
worked or lived near the protest sites and were fed up with the disruption.
There are also those opposed to democracy in general. These include:
Beijing loyalists such as the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) and its supporters. The DAB is a political party that has been unwaveringly loyal to China’s Central Government and has been opposed to increased democracy since the party’s inception. The party is quite well supported in Hong Kong due to its strong organization at the grassroots level and efforts at representing its constituents;
Anti-western conspiracy theorists who view the pro-democracy movement as a plot hatched, planned and funded by American intelligence services looking to destabilize the territory and weaken China (the protesting university students are viewed as unwitting dupes manipulated into betraying their country).
There exist deep divisions within Hong Kong and it is unlikely that the majority of Hong Kong people supported the protests.
Did the Protest Have a Chance to Succeed?
Since the handover in 1997, Hong Kong people had twice used massive protests to stave off unpopular political proposals. They forced the Hong Kong government into shelving the introduction of far-reaching anti-sedition laws (the Article 23 protests of 1993 en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hong_Kong_Basic_Law_Article_23) and into indefinitely delaying the introduction of a mandatory propaganda-heavy Moral and National Education curriculum in the territory’s secondary schools (the student-led protests of 2012 en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_and_national_education). It was during this second campaign, that many of the student leaders of this current campaign gained experience.
However, this time the protest was against a decision by China’s Communist Party, which would not want to see a precedent of being forced though public dissent to backtrack on official policy. As Hu Jia former teenage activist in the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 states:
Thus, even if there was disagreement among different political factions in China about what to do with Hong Kong, the idea of Chinese leaders giving in to protesters’ demands for greater democracy seemed rather far-fetched.
In addition, Hong Kong simply lacks leverage with China. With a typical strike or boycott, protesters send a message of “We are prepared to make a sacrifice to get what we want. We will suffer, but you will suffer, too; so it is in your best interest to meet our demands.” In this case, however, China can simply say “Yeah, about that suffering…if you want to suffer, that’s fine with us. We can help you suffer some more. Shall we shut down your economy?”
At the same time as public support for their protests began to wane. the students themselves were getting worn out mentally and physically as they try to cope with the pressures of living on the street while trying to keep up with their classwork and negotiate with disapproving parents.
As the situation at the protest sites can unfold so rapidly, even if protesters could get away for a night’s rest, some of them would set the alarm to wake up every two or three hours so that they can return if needed. The effects began take their toll and the students’ resolve began to waver.
It is hard to see what the students could gain from Beijing. Perhaps, the best they could have hoped for was to extract some minor concessions from the local government. Commenting on an article by local businessman Allan Zeman (www.ejinsight.com/20140925-we-can-keep-building-on-our-can-do-spirit/), James Tan suggested these possible concessions:
“[for the HK government to (for example):
hold independent public enquiries into allegations of: 1. use of excessive force by the police since September 27th during all the recent protest; 2. collusion between police and triads in recent days.
apologise for illegally detaining student leaders for over 48 hours;
review all charges against all protesters since September 27th;
consider conveying student and protesters’ demands w.r.t. NPCSC’s Framework for the election of the Chief Executive in 2017 to the NPCSC, subject to the outcome of planned negotiations between students and the government”
What did the Protesters Expect to Achieve?
I asked many participants this question. Surprisingly, not one of the people I spoke to expected the protests to change anything. They all said that they simply wanted their voices to be heard and realized that the protest might be the last time they would have the chance. Perhaps the Umbrella Movement’s leaders had higher hopes, but the ordinary people I talked to were all rather pragmatic and pessimistic.
Man people hoped that the local government will be more responsive to its citizens’ needs and wants. The government cannot be ousted at the ballot box, but the students showed that Hong Kong people were willing to make a stand for what they believe in.
If a more careful, caring and considerate governing style takes root in Hong Kong, perhaps that will be the lasting legacy of these protests.
A couple of people have mentioned that I should not show people’s faces in the pictures. However, all the photos in these albums only show people attending a protest (Freedom of Assembly is allowed in Hong Kong) and the protest is only in support of increased democracy (a principle allowed in the Basic Law). Bear in mind that the aim of the photo gallery is to present a more human side to the protests. Simply having photos of anonymous masked protesters will not achieve that aim.
If you are featured in one of the photos and would like to NOT be identifiable, let me know and I will pixelate your face.
The protests came to an end late November (Mongkok) and early December (Admiralty and Causeway Bay) after bus companies obtained court injunctions requiring the streets to be cleared. One by one, the protest sites were cleared. Protesters packed up and police and cleaning crews moved in, meeting little to no resistance.
There were quite a few causes for the end of the protest:
The legal actions taken by the bus companies, which would have put anyone failing to comply with the orders to clears the site in contempt of court)
The protester’s exhaustion (many of them were students, who would soon sit for exams)
Dwindling public support
Lack of leadership among the protesters (there was no one actually in charge of the protests)
Were the protests successful? The government made no concessions and the protests ended, so it emerged as a clear ‘victor’.
I put ‘victor’ in quotation marks because by taking such a hardline against peaceful protesters and refusing to make any concessions, the government unwittingly gave birth to more radical protest movements that have ideologies ranging from stressing localism to calling for independence. When the opportunity came to protest again during the so-called Fishball Revolution (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_Mong_Kok_civil_unrest) during the Lunar New Year Holiday in 2016, the number of protesters was much smaller, but they were a lot nastier, as witnessed by their attacks on police The protest quickly escalated to a riot, with protesters hurling bricks at police and assaulting a fallen officer, leading to one of his colleagues firing warning shots into the air.
Similarly, the anti-extradition bill protests of 2019 have been marred by violence on all sides.
The protesters of the Umbrella Movement won nothing. However, regarding the people I spoke to—the ones who expressed a desire to be heard—I suppose that to a certain extent, they did succeed. For a couple of months, their voices were heard.
The graffiti scene in Hong Kong is relatively new, but there are some great artists in the city. Most of the graffiti in the streets are simple tags (signatures) or throw-ups (these are fairly simple filled-outline works), however, there are a few places where you can see more elaborate works. in different districts, different styles and format predominate. You can preview some of the more representative works on this page, and if you are interested in seeing more, you can click on the links provided to see the whole sets
1. Hong Kong Street Art: Mid Autumn Art Jam (Ma On Shan)
This gallery features several graffiti pieces that were created during the moon festival in Hong Kong. Click on any of the below images to open the gallery slideshow. Unfortunately, if you are using Windows XP with Internet Explorer 8, the gallery function may not appear. However, you can still view the entire set of photos in this series (over 140 images) on Google Photos: Hong Kong Graffiti and Street Art Part 6: Mid-Autumn Graffiti.
While taking these photos of this graffiti Wall of Fame in Hong Kong, I spoke to a woman who lived nearby and she told me that all the pieces were done during last year’s Mid-Autumn Festival (at the very end of September). The usual way of celebrating this festival, also known as the Moon Festival, involves family dinners, lanterns and mooncakes; however, last year many of Hong Kong’s graffiti artists gathered to hold an art jam on the wall of a highway overpass that runs just outside the suburban area of Ma On Shan in the New Territories. The location is not difficult to get to but is quite well hidden, so I guess the artists could work uninterrupted. Some of the visuals, such as the rabbit image, are related to the festival (according to Chinese legend, a rabbit lives on the moon with the moon goddess Chang’e. There are around 30 pieces (including wildstyle works) on the wall.
To view the following pictures in a slideshow, just click on any of the photos.
This alley near the Mongkok East MTR station has lots of more elaborate pieces in a variety of styles. It’s one of the few places where street art is generally left alone by the authorities (though pieces are painted over by other graffiti artists from time to time). It is also home to a fair number of homeless men who live in make shift cardboard shelters and who have a set up a mini-kitchen with a gas stove. Just around the corner is Argyle street, which is jam-packed with shoppers and tourists. It seems that there is an unspoken deal in place: ‘you can do what you want in this lane, just don’t take it outside’.
3. HK Street Art: Kwun Tong and Ngau Tau Kok
Click on any of the below images to open the gallery slideshow. You can view the entire set of photos in this series (over 150 images) on Google Photos: Hong Kong Graffiti and Street Art Part 2: Kwun Tong and Ngau Tau Kok.
The streets of the industrial areas of Kwun Tong and Ngau Tau Kok feature a lot of graffiti compared to other parts of Hong Kong. The district is an indie culture hot spot. It’s a factory area, but the manufacturing industry declined steeply in the 1980s as mainland China started to embrace capitalism. Factories and, of course, factory jobs moved to China’s Guangdong province. The resulting empty floor space in factory buildings is now being frequently rented out as band practice rooms and art studios.
In the previous series on Mongkok graffiti and street art, almost every photo was taken in one alley—a kind of graffiti gallery. In contrast, the street art work in Kwun Tong and Ngau Tau Kok is spread out through the entire industrial part of the district (basically everything to West of the MTR rail line). It took around four hours to take all the photographs.
There seems to be more stencil work and paste-ups (paper-based work that is done beforehand and then affixed to the wall) in this area of the city.
There is always the question of whether the artwork adds anything or whether it is just visual pollution and vandalism. I especially wonder about how the owners of the small mom-and-pop shops in the area feel when they come to work one morning and find their shutters covered in a hastily-drawn scrawl. The owners struggle hard working long hours to barely make ends meet; I don’t imagine they appreciate the new decorations.
The photos in this set are featured in the following video:
4. Hong Kong Street Art: Causeway Bay, Central, Sheung Wan
These street art photos were mainly taken in Causeway Bay (perhaps the busiest shopping area on Hong Island), SOHO (the retail and restaurant area South of Hollywood Road, hence the name, between Central District and Sheung Wan). Because these are such busy areas, with things going on round the clock, the street art is usually done in a hurry—this is why you can only find things like paste-ups, stencils and tags.
A lot of the works provide social commentary. For example, former Chief Executive Donald Tsang is turned into a devil in an Obama-style poster. There are picture-text combinations highlighting poverty and quite a few works condemn greed, which is fitting given that Hong Kong has severe income inequality and that Central is the key financial district of Hong Hong. A few of the paste-ups are from the local artist Start from Zero (www.facebook.com/ratscave.sfz/).
5. Hong Kong Street Art: Mongkok & Tsim Sha Tsui
These are busy commercial and entertainment districts in Kowloon with a nightlife going on round the clock. It’s a challenge for graffiti artists to even find a blank wall yet alone work undetected. Thus, the art tends to be something that can be done in a hurry (tags, stickers or stencils) and is often done in dingy alleyways. There also tends to be a lot of çrazy messages left on utility boxes and lampposts. Can we call these mad ramblings street art?
6. Hong Kong Street Art: The King of Kowloon
Speaking of ramblings, perhaps the first graffiti artist in Hong Kong was thee self-proclaimed Emperor of Kowloon Tsang Chou-choi, who throughout the 1980s and 1990s painted messages in his distinctive Chinese calligraphy claiming that he was the rightful owner of the entire peninsula. At any one time, there were a few hundred of his messages spread around Kowloon. He tended to write on government owned walls and utility boxes, perhaps because he viewed the government as the thieves who stole his family’s land. He died in 2007, and towards the end of his life was considered an artist, with galleries curating exhibitions of his work. However, it took the government a while to realize that his graffiti was part of Hong Kong’s collective memory and by the time they took measure to preserve his work, only three pieces remained. These are now sealed in plastic (the easiest to view one is at the Star Ferry Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui). I took the following two pictures mant years ago in Diamond Hill (click on each image for a larger version on Google+).
7. Street Art in Hong Kong: Kowloon City, Kowloon Tong & Cheung Sha Wan
You can find street art scattered in other areas of Kowloon as well. There is some in Kowloon City and quite a few pieces in Kowloon Tong, the latter of which are usually found on walls in the alleys between upscale condominium complexes. Kowloon Tong is an unusual area—it features upper-middle class residences (with an emphasis on the ‘upper’), kindergartens, a couple of universities and a lot of small love hotels. Other photos in this series were taken in Cheung Sha Wan and Lai King.
This gallery features works from around the Tai Wai, Fotan, Ma On Shan Tai Po and Wu Kai Sha. These are the areas just north of Kowloon (on the other side of Lion Rock). You can find graffiti on factory walls and near bike paths. Click on any picture to view the gallery as a slide show. You can also view the entire set of photos in this series (over 160 images) on Google Photos: Hong Kong Graffiti and Street Art: Around Shatin.
Image Galleries on Google Photos
To view the complete sets of images at higher resolutions, select the click on the following links:
These photos are from a trip to the Xiqiao Mountain Film Studio in Foshan (in Guangdong, China). The set builders and prop artisans were getting prepared for the start of filming of a Hong Kong-Mainland China co-production—Ip Man: Final Fight, the third film in the Ip Man martial arts trilogy. They were recreating a few different districts in 1950s Hong Kong, with the set covering several city blocks.
At that time, the buildings were covered with bamboo scaffolding as workers apply the finishing touches to the exteriors. Shooting will begin in early August.
What I found most interesting about the site was that everything was fake. I had though a lot of things might have been sourced from antique stores; however, everything has been (or is being) created from scratch, including…
The props are created in a nearby warehouse/factory (the photo at the top of the page was taken there).
Most of the ground level rooms seem to be functional. For example, here is a beauty salon.
And here is equipment for a dentist’s office.
Apparently, the set will not be dismantled at the end of filming. It will be kept intact for future productions taking place in Hong Kong around the same time period.
I was interested in photographing this old colonial cemetery for a couple of reasons. The gravestones make for interesting subjects, with the wear and tear of time being shown in different ways—cracked and stained surfaces, worn away inscriptions, rusted iron, moss and lichen encrusted rock. In addition, wandering amongst the graves, you can’t help but ponder questions of mortality.
The English Corner is a project I have been working on at SKH Lam Woo Memorial Secondary School. Every school day, students can drop in at lunch or after school to play games, watch movies or simply chat with friends. They can also borrow movies, music CDs, books, manga, magazines and computer games.
The English Corner, or ‘Eng Con’ as it is called by students, began operations in September 2006 and is open every school day (except during exam periods). The English Corner is run by a team of approximately 60 students from Forms One to Five (grades 7 to 11(. One other English teacher and a teaching assistant currently assist with supervising the student team.
The English Corner has been very successful in helping create an English-rich environment at the school. At it’s peak:
It was visited more than 10,000 times per year;
Students borrowed more than 8,000 items per year;
In a 2007 survey, 40% of students reported visiting at least once every two weeks. Another 40% reported visiting less frequently;
In a 2008 survey, the English Corner was voted by students as the most popular spot on campus;
In a 2009 survey, the majority of Form 1 students indicated they they visited the English Corner at least once a week .
The picture, however, isn’t completely rosy. First, it takes a lot of work to run. Second, it seems that I will soon need a new business model. Rather than force students to visit the English Corner, I’ve always sought to attract them. This was done by making available English-language things students want—music CDs, movies, television series DVDs, teen fiction, English translations of manga and teen-oriented magazines. The idea is that they would come to borrow these things, take a look around, see some fun things to do and then hang around for a while. This method has worked well. The problem is that most students are now accessing all of these things online. They are watching movies on PPS (a video streaming site) before the movies are released in local cinemas. They are reading scanned versions of manga. They are downloading pirated copies of Western music. Therefore, borrowing and attendance figures are dropping will likely continue to drop. Next year, we will have to be more much more proactive in organizing and promoting activities. I will be trying to get them to come for the activities and then maybe borrow a few things on the way out. This isn’t going to be easy.
There are several reasons why it has been successful:
Location: It is in a good location. Large numbers of students pass by on a regular basis and can see what is going on inside.
Attractive and relaxing atmosphere: I created it as a place where students would want to come in. A lot of attention was paid to interior design to create an attractive, playful and comfortable environment. In addition, I tried to find out what kinds of books, magazines and movies and board games local teenagers would be interested in. An important principle is that students are not required to visit; they are expected to come in only if they want to. I hoped this approach would increase students’ intrinsic motivation to learn English.
Communicative approach to language learning: There is no pressure on students to make a deliberate effort to learn (e.g., by doing grammar exercises like they would in a self-access centre). The students simply gain practice communicating in English. For example, they may play a language related game like scrabble and work on their vocabulary skills or they may simply play a strategy game like Blokus while chatting with their friends in English. In the English Corner, students also express their feelings in several notebooks and sketchbooks. You can see some of their comments and sketches online at the blog ‘No one is beside me‘ (http://nobm.wordpress.com/).THis website was set up to promote the English Corner and try to build up a sense of belonging among students. A Facebook page was also been set up to keep students informed about new items and to display photos and videos, butthis was discontinued when Faceboook introduced a two new polices (Edgerank and Promoted Posts) that meant posts would only be seen bya small minority of subscribers unless you paid to promote the posts.
Multi-cultural resources: The materials (e.g., films, music, books) and decorations (e..g, posters) represent a multi-cultural world. The English Corner has a large collection of Japanese music CDs (with varying amounts of English – from O% to 100%), a small collection of French music, foreign language movies from around the world, English translations of Japanese manga and books as well as English language books by Hong Kong writers. This policy is intended to help students develop a greater curiosity in other cultures and to present English as a world language—a language that belongs to diverse cultures.
Links to other school activities: The exchange students we have had during the past four years have been student helpers or managers. More students have the opportunity to meet them. Also, students can get a coupon to put into their English Portfolio, though this coupon is NOT required.
Support from students: Large numbers of students are willing to help run the English Corner.
In general, the English Corner is able to provide students opportunities to speak English in social situations and gives them access to a wide range or resources. As most of the school’s students live in Kwai Chung and nearby neighbourhoods, they may otherwise lack these opportunities.
Here are two videos showing students enjoying the English Corner.
These are learning activities suitable for high school or even tertiary level students. They could be used classes in language, media. film, communication, social students or liberal studies or with student media production teams or campus television stations.
1. The Fifty People, One Question Approach
The Fifty People, One Question activity would involve having students work in groups to create a video a based on the Fifty People, One Question series of videos. In these videos, people are interviewed in the street and are asked one question. The original video was shot in New Orleans in 2008 by the creative partnership of Crush and Lovely & Deltree; their question was: “By the end of today, what would you wish to happen?”
The team also asked the same question in New York and Brooklyn and in London asked the question “Where do you you wish to wake up tomorrow?” The videos are quite popular and have inspired a series of similar videos such as PostSecret’s: What’s your Secret? (The video set in Ottawa, however, isn’t suitable for secondary school classwork, however, as the interviewees are asked what their favourite curse word is.). The Fifty People One Question Team is quite happy for others to use their approach and even the same title as long as credit is given with a link back to their website: fiftypeopleonequestion.com
The 50 People, One Question approach can also be used as a starting point for students to develop their own formats. A much more visual approach was used by BenHaistFilms, who took the general idea and gave it a new spin by having interviewees write and down and physically show their answers to the question.
In the above video, the 50 People, 1 Question concept served not so much as a model to be copied, but as a starting point and as a source of inspiration.
A group of my own students in Hong Kong adapted the approach (they were the ones who noticed the original series of videos). In addition to the in-the-street-interviews, they also conducted sit-down interviews which allowed the interviewees to really talk a lot more and go into greater depth. In this video, the first part of series of short films entitled Dreamers, the students look at CM (a professional session musician, arranger and producer who also goes by the name of CMgroovy) and Chan Yat-kuen (an artist and retired teacher).They also conducted interviews in the street with passers-by and learned how varied our dreams can be. The video directors decided not to have a long introduction, but to get to the point almost straight away, starting with the interviewees repeating the question (so the viewer knows pretty much what to expect from the very beginning). Here is the main video (the other videos are at the end of the article):
If students are interested in making a Fifty People, One Question video, they can first think of a suitable question. The questions in the orginal videos are quite good as they are a little unusual and would help avoid pre-thought-out ‘canned’ answers.
2. Language Challenges and Comparisons
This is a good activity for students to do if they know native speakers of different languages and if they are looking for something with a little more humor. The format is very flexible. In this video, we have native speakers of Italian and Cantonese try out each other’s language:
3. The Oral History Approach
The oral history approach was made famous by Studs Terkel, an American historian who interviewed thousands of ordinary people in-depth; he broadcast these interviews over the radio and published them in a collection of books. Often his interviews would have a specific (e.g., Work, Life during the war, etc.). Oral histories help give a voice to people who are often overlooked in textbooks and in media. A lot of work on oral histories in the US, for example, has focused on Mexicans and Mexican-Americans who participated in the the Braceros Program, in which temporary labourers were imported into America between 1947 and 1964.
A student group producing an oral history video would interview one person or a small group of persons get them to talk as much as possible about their experiences. The focus is usually on the interviewee’s personal experiences and their thoughts and feelings on these experiences rather than their thoughts in more general issues or things they were not directly involved with. This kind of project is great in helping young people understand what life was really like during a specific period of time and understand how the world has changed.
Youth oral history projects can also help bring different generations together. Your average teen would rarely if ever have a conversation with an elderly person they weren’t related to. In many of the oral histories I’ve viewed, the interviewees seemed to appreciate the chance to tell their stories to the young interviewers. In the following video, Carey Giudici discusses some of the benefits of cross-generational oral history projects:
Here is an interview that is part of the African American Museum of Iowa’s oral history project, Adult Voices, Children’s Eyes. In the first part of the interview, two woman recount their bitter experiences with discrimination and segregation and then, in the second part, explain how society has changed for the better, why they think it’s changed and how this change makes them feel.
If students are working on oral history projects, they should think of a question and period of time they would like to focus on (e.g., What was life like for you as a labourer in the Braceros Program?, What was life like for you, as a black person, growing up in America? What was life like for you in Hong Kong during the Japanese occupation?). Another very important consideration is the scope of the study. How many interviews will each student group conduct? Will the whole class focus on a specific theme or will groups be allowed to choose their own area to focus on? Will the students only present the interviews or will they integrate what they have found with other sources? The students might find that their interviewees have other interesting things to talk about, but it would be good to start with one area to focus on and a clear idea of the scope of the project.
As the oral history approach has been used for a long time, there are a lot of supporting materials describing the whole process of conduction oral history interviews. The following website describes this process: dohistory.org/on_your_own/toolkit/oralHistory.html
The following PowerPoint presentation (in video form) video clip gives a detailed overview of the whole process:
This clip, from the University of Leicester, focuses on the technical aspects of the interview (e.g., seating positions, audio recording techniques, cameras angles, lighting, and getting the interview started etc.) and gives examples of good and bad interview techniques:
4. Educational Benefits
The video activities have several benefits:
They encourage students to reach out to the community and come into contact with people from all walks of life and/or from different generations.
They help students develop their confidence and communication skills as they approach potential interviewees.
They let students listen to different views and challenge students to review preconceptions.
They give students the chance to develop their interpersonal skills as they work in groups to plan, prepare, shoot, edit and publicize the video.
They can give students inspiration for the further development of their own ideas (The activity could be followed up by written work like writing their own answers to their question and posting it on a class bulletin board or using the video of their oral history interviews as part of a larger research project. It could also be followed up by oral work like presenting their video to the class and reflecting on what they learned by doing the project).
The 50 People 1 Question approach also helps students learn how to analyze and use film techniques. The original 50 People 1 Question videos give students a framework to build on, not just in terms of the overall format, but also in terms of the shooting style. The creators of the original series of videos created them in a specific style. The videos feature:
Long introductions (the camera just examines some of the interviewees, creating a feeling of suspense)
A structure in which tends to start with shorter responses and with more insightful and deeper responses appearing later on in the video
The interviewer never being heard or seen
People sometimes being interviewed in pairs, so we can sometimes see reactions to comments
Some interviewees having their footage being intercut with others, often with some link between the interviews in the content or language)
Use of establishing shots to give the viewer an idea of the general environment
The use of background music to set a contemplative mood
The use of shots of interviewees getting into position and of the camera being positioned and being put into focus along with unfocused
shots and shots of people people partly out of the frame. These shots give the video a sort of guerrilla film-making shooting-on-the-fly feel that contrasts with the professional-quality clear sound (quite difficult to achieve in a street interview) and very still and clear images
Extensive use of close-ups
The use of specific camera techniques like rack focus (i.e., the focus of the camera gradually changes from foreground to background or vice-versa) and shallow depth of field (e.g., the foreground is clear, while the background is blurry).
5. Questions to Consider
Using video in assignments comes with all kinds of challenges. You will need to consider the following:
Are the educational benefits the students will get from the activity worth the time required by students to produce the video?
How much do your students know and what skills do they already possess?
What support do the students require in terms of equipment and learning?
If the assignment is assessed and not for a film course, how will you take into consideration the gap between students who have easy access to equipment and software and those who don’t or the gap between those with some video-making experience and those who are working on their first video project?
How will you handle copyright infringement and how can you get students to respect copyright?
How will you handle privacy issues?