Lee Fook Chee’s Hong Kong
LEE FOOK CHEE FCC EXHIBITION
WALL PROJECT TEXT
BOOK JACKET PHOTO
Unless two strangers, Lee Fook Chee and Ed Stokes, had crossed paths on The Peak in 2010 the book Lee Fook Chee’s Hong Kong — and this FCC exhibition – almost certainly would not have appeared. But the chance meeting took place, setting off a chain of meetings, discussions and interviews. The publication of this uniquely Hong Kong photographic memoir is the result.
Lee arrived in Hong Kong from Singapore in 1947, one of the waves of newcomers seeking refuge from war and poverty. Many, if not most, arrived with little and had no choice but to build up their lives from scratch. Lee’s humble circumstances were far removed from the world of colonial society and the photographic salons.
The 1950s, when the book’s and exhibition’s photographs were taken, were the ‘crucible’ decade for Hong Kong. It is the period when immigrants and refugees start to rise above their hardships. It is the time when we see modern Hong Kong beginning to take shape.
Lee’s life, and his photos taken during the 1950s, reflect the experiences of the growing city around him. He faced countless challenges, yet he persevered. Photography for Lee was first and foremost a way to make a living. With little education and limited choices, he did not have the luxury of taking pictures as a hobby or as art. Despite this, in his later years he knew and appreciated that his work had great heritage value to Hong Kong.
This is where The Photographic Heritage Foundation comes in. The Foundation seeks out rare, or little known, historical photos. Lee’s hitherto unknown photographic works are a perfect example of what the Foundation particularly aims to do: to bring to light unknown, significant photos that otherwise would never be published, and whose original negatives and prints would probably later be discarded or destroyed.
Lee Fook Chee’s Hong Kong and this FCC exhibition exemplify the Foundation’s mission. Both draw us into Hong Kong as it once was, so far removed from our life today.