It started out as a challenge.
In a discussion on photography, a friend asked me if I could do a series of “landscapes that do not look like landscapes”. The idea intrigued me. After some reflection, I decided to try the technique of moving the camera in synchronization with the movement of the lens. This is certainly not new or unique. Many have played with this technique before, and I shall not be the last to try it out. But I did take it more seriously than most, because I found in it a way of creative release.
At that time, my career was in full swing. I was working on book projects, stories for magazines like National Geographic, New York Times Sunday Magazine, GEO and Stern, as well as annual reports and brochures for corporate clients.
My professional work requires rigorously composed photographs and interesting content for my clients. Complete control and meticulous planning are therefore exigent. The project “Moving Horizon” was done in reaction to this. With a combination of long exposure and camera movement, I could produce images free from the restrictions of professionalism. It was an interesting experience to lose control of my images and leave things to the combined movements of the lens and the camera.
I found that I could produce images that resemble Chinese ink drawings, with the blank background and flowing lines. The images represent abstraction, rather than representation, of reality.
However, to make this work, I had to drastically modify the optical path of a plastic Russian camera (similar to the Lomo’s used by trendy youths nowadays). This resulted in negatives very difficult to print in the darkroom. So the negatives languished in a box until digital technology comes to the rescue. I can now realize the full potential of the images. I should like to emphasize that the images have not been photoshopped, merely scanned with adjustments on their exposure and contrast to bring out the hidden details in the negatives.
I feel like the man who cleared out his attic and found a Picasso.
Leong Ka Tai
The Human Rights Press Awards are run by the FCC, Amnesty International Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Journalists Association. The ceremony took place in May 2017. Click here to see the winners.