Photographer Kurt Tong traces the entwined histories of China and the UK through his own family history in his latest exhibition.
Described by Tong as a photographic ‘who do you think you are’ The Queen, The Chairman and I marks the 20-year anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty.
In this multi-stranded saga of love, hope, and tragedy, Tong uncovers family secrets and reveals the impact of political and economic forces on individual people.
Reconnecting with the past
The exhibition, made over four years and across three continents, combines new large-scale photographs, alongside heirloom images and rare colour film footage from the 1940s.
Central to the exhibition is a contemporary Chinese teahouse installation where visitors are invited to drink tea, read Tong’s artist book, and share their own family stories.
“I traced the history of my family in a bid to find out how two of the most influential people in history, Queen Victoria and Chairman Mao, affected my family,” he said.
“Giving equal importance to new photographs, found photographs and writing, this project reconnects me with the Hong Kong of the past, through the recollections of my extended family, humanising the political and social upheaval that took my family to Hong Kong and eventually to the United Kingdom.”
Tong’s paternal grandfather was a deckhand who arrived in Hong Kong from Shanghai after the fall of the last imperial Chinese dynasty in 1911.
His mother’s family were landlords in Southern China before moving to Hong Kong. He believes they ‘probably escaped certain death at the hands of Mao’s advancing Communist armies’.
Tong grew up in Hong Kong but only returned in 2012 after coming to the UK to continue his education.
‘Beautiful and thought provoking’
Spectrum Photographic is the printing and mounting sponsor for The Queen, The Chairman and I.
Co-owner and director Hazel Watts describes it as a ‘beautiful and thought-provoking body of work’.
The exhibition is on until March 18 at Impressions Gallery, Bradford, and is the first time the project has been shown in its entirety.
It forms part of Views from China – a special six-month programme of exhibitions and events taking a fresh look at Chinese culture and its long-standing links with the UK.
Admission is free.
An Impressions Gallery touring exhibition curated by Anne McNeill.
Title image: Seaport ©Kurt Tong
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