Hong Kong Art Photography: From the Beginnings to the Japanese Invasion of December 1941

Lai, Kin Keung Edwin 黎健強
Supervisor: Prof. David Clarke and Prof. Q.L. Wan

Hong Kong art photography first appeared in the 1920s. This thesis explains the background reasons for its emergence, and traces its development up to December 1941, when the colony fell into the hands of the Japanese invaders. As the pioneer research into this topic, its purpose is to give a factual account of the activities and works of Hong Kong art photography during this period.

This thesis is divided into five chapters. Chapter One charts the introduction of photography to Hong Kong in the 1840s, and then examines how it had been practised here until the 1930s. In particular, it reveals that these activities, along with advances in photographic technology, had contributed to the rise of art photography.

Chapter two opens by a description of the two phases of Hong Kong art photography before World War II. Then, through a discussion of the lives and works of leading artists, organisations and societies, modes of activities and exhibitions, etc., it gives a first sketch of the general outlook of art photography in Hong Kong before 1931.

Chapter Three studies the development of Hong Kong art photography in its second phase (c. 1931-1941). Instead of looking at individual artists, it surveys the general tendencies of this period. It shows that the photographic industry, certain photographic societies and photographic competitions had organised and shaped the activities and works of the artists. The chapter then finishes with a discussion of an anti-Japanese war photography movement which emerged in the later half of the 1930s.

Chapter Four concentrates on the study of the photographs. It looks closely at those subjects and styles that the artists had preferred, and examines aesthetic beliefs which had motivated such preferences. It also suggests some possible sources of influences for the pictures.

Chapter Five is the conclusion. In addition to a summing-up of the discussion in the previous chapters, it also gives a brief introduction to the development of Hong Kong art photography from 1946 to early 1970s.