The Queen, The Chairman and I - Kurt Tong
31 May to 23 June 2012
Venue: Horse Hospital
Address: The Horse Hospital, Colonnade, London, WC1N 1JD
Disabled Access: This event has wheelchair access
Opening Times: 12-6pm, 7 days a week
This new body of work by Kurt Tong combines a collection of historical photographs, new photographs and writings that retrace and bring to life Tong's ancestral roots from more than a century ago to the present day.
The exhibition will take the form of a Chinese tea house and visitors will be encouraged to share their own family stories.
Where are you from originally?
As an immigrant, I get asked this more than I care for. Having spent two thirds of my life in England, I am still often considered an outsider. I was born in the city of Hong Kong in 1977, five years before China wanted it back. Us Honkies have an identity that's very different to the ones of China; after all, I sang God Save our Queen as my national anthem at school. I always knew I was coming to live in England. My father studied here and dislikes the communists; he had always told me that when Hong Kong goes back to China in 1997, we would not be going back. Go back he did. In fact, he never really left. I, on the other hand, got sent here for school and I married and started a family here. Having grown up between three different cultures, one question is always at the back of my mind. How Chinese am I or indeed, who am I?
My father's grandfather was a deckhand who came to Hong Kong from Shanghai after the fall of the Empire in 1911, lured by better job prospects in the relatively stable British colony. My mother's family were big landlords in Southern China—they came to Hong Kong and probably escaped certain death at the hands of Mao's advancing Communist armies. I am tracing back the history of my family in a bid to find out how two of the most influential people in history affected my family.
Granting equal importance to new photographs, found photographs and writing, the work will reconnect me with the Hong Kong of the past through the recollection of my extended family, humanizing the political and social upheaval that brought my family to Hong Kong and eventually to the United Kingdom.
The project is a visual storybook for my daughters. It is my hope that when they are older and begin to question their own heritage, they will find answers to their questions as I did during the research and making of this project.
Exhibition curated by Lauren Heinz, FOTO8
Born in Hong Kong in 1977, Kurt Tong was originally trained as a health visitor at the University of Liverpool. He has worked and traveled extensively across Europe, the Americas and Asia. In 1999, Kurt co-founded Prema Vasam, a charitable home for disabled and disadvantaged children in Chennai, South India. Kurt became a full-time photographer in 2003. He was the winner of the Luis Valtuena International Humanitarian Photography Award and the City of Port St. Elpidio Prize with his first picture-story documenting the treatment of disabled children in India. He has worked for many other NGOs and covered stories on topics ranging from female infanticide to ballroom dancers.
He gained his Masters in Documentary Photography at the London College of Communications in 2006 and immediately began working on more personal projects. He has since been chosen as the winner of Photograph.Book.Now competition, the Hey, Hot Shot! competition and the prestigious Jerwood Photography Award.
Tong's photographs have been widely published and exhibited around the world at venues including: The Royal Academy, Impressions Gallery, Abbaye de Neumunster, Fotofest in Houston and solo shows at Compton Verney, Photofusion and Streetlevel Photoworks. He is represented by Jen Bekman Gallery in New York and The Photographer's Gallery in London.
His first monograph In Case it Rains in Heaven (Kehrer Verlag) was published in 2011.
BOOKS BY KURT TONG:
Images © Kurt Tong
The Horse Hospital © Ralf Zeigermann