Shortlisted for the ParisPhoto Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards 2013
This is a selection from more than 1,000 pictures taken of portraits found on the tombstones in Hong Kong’s cemeteries. Cemeteries are essential features of Hong Kong’s cultural landscape. They are a symbolic place, powerful and feared. A link to the afterworld. Burial sites are carefully selected in consideration of good feng shui. The only prime property in Hong Kong that is deserted during most of the year. The Chinese avoid cemeteries and only visit during the Ching Ming and Chung Yeung festivals. When searching for Hong Kong landscapes, I stumbled upon these seas of graves with the cityscape in the background.
In this book the portraits have been isolated from the headstones on purpose. Out of the context of the cemetery and away from the idea of death. The focus lies on the portrait itself, people in their present. Names and family history are excluded, out of respect for the ancestry and also to re-emphasize the impact of the individual anonymous face. Over time the portraits are exposed to rain, sun, extreme temperatures and humidity. The portraits become abstract. In the end, we are left with the simple abstract beauty of the image as such.
The portrait series in the book exposes both the strength of the individual face and the perishable nature of the individual human body. An inherent contradiction of our existence. The clear images make us want to connect, understand, and know the strangers and their stories. The fading images reference mortality of human life, and the limitations of our impact. Subconsciously, our interest in the individual fades as the portraits become less clear. It is quietly replaced by our draw to the beauty of the abstract image. We will be remembered only by the children of our children. As the faces fade further, anonymity returns and once again we become part of nature... ad infinitum.