April 29th, 2013
Carnarvon Road, Tsim Sha Tsui in the 1930s
When Joyce Fitch lived in Hong Kong, rickshaws were a form of public transport, the only way to cross Victoria Harbour was by boat and there were about 1.5 million people living in the territory. Fitch was born in England and spent most of her youth and adolescence in Hong Kong, where she lived with her family on Kimberley Road in Tsim Sha Tsui in the 1930s. I interviewed Fitch recently thanks to the English Schools Foundation’s Alumni News, and because it’s not often you hear first-hand about expatriate life in Kowloon before the war, I thought I’d post a portion of the transcript, which has been edited for clarity.
My father went out to China in 1920 as the captain of a ship for Butterfield and Swire, now Cathay Pacific. He was there trading up and down the coast, from Shanghai up to the Gorges and up to Tientsin. We were there in Shanghai for four years and then he was transferred down to Hong Kong. He was still working on the ship, going away and coming back.
We had rather a checkered family life but we managed. My brother was in England so we would have to go back there every so often. I went to the Kowloon British School near Austin Road — I travelled there by rickshaw — but I didn’t really have much time at school for any length of time. I was always coming back or forwards.
Because my father was away a lot, our life was a little bit different than other families. My mother played tennis and mahjong. I would come home and the [servant] boy would be there and I would have a meal. I was a rather solitary child and didn’t always have friends around to play. I was very independent and could walk around Kowloon all over the place and not feel at all restricted. I would go to dockyards and watch the men work.
We lived on Kimberley Road. The big houses there had gardens — Carnarvon Road too. Down where Carnarvon Road goes, there was a market garden, believe it or not. There weren’t many shops past St. Andrew’s [Church, on Nathan Road near Austin Road]. There was a sort of gap of houses and flats and maybe a few more shops further up Nathan Road, and then there was a theatre up there. I remember going to the pictures very often. It was just a very rural type area. Lots of gardens. I was really quite shocked when I went back to see it the next time. I think it was about 1970 that I went back first. I came back about three times — each time it surprised me more.
November 25th, 2010
Melbourne’s Chinatown as shot with a camera made from a duck
Earlier this week, I paid a visit to Martin Cheung‘s studio in the Cattle Depot Artists’ Village in To Kwa Wan. I was there to speak to him about his work with pinhole photography, a medium that uses crude, handmade cameras to record images that often look as rough as the devices that made them.
We spoke for awhile about Cheung’s fascination with pinhole photography. It’s meditative and not as aggressive as conventional photography, he told me, and it forces you to consider the process of taking a photo rather than the result. He showed me how to make a simple pinhole camera with paper and tape. Then the conversation turned to ducks.
Cheung studied art in Melbourne, where he also worked in a Chinese restaurant as a waiter and kitchenhand. Nine years ago, in his final year of study, Cheung had a thought: “Roast duck is such a symbol of Chinese cooking, so I wanted to see how the duck saw Chinatown.” So he bought a roast duck and turned it into a pinhole camera.
April 7th, 2009
Videographer Keith Loutit is spending a year filming Sydney in tilt-shift time-lapses, such as this one of the city’s Mardi Gras celebration, above. What does Loutit’s reduction of urban life to miniature tell us about the city he’s working in? And what does tilt-shift photography say about humanity and its built environments? Is it speaking to the individual’s subjection to a grander design? Or does a format that makes people, vehicles, and cities look like models mean to say something about the artificiality of society, about the constructed nature of culture?
Most of Loutit’s videos focus the city’s primary public spaces, its harbor and its beaches. Yet his Little Sydneysiders are no more subsumed to the grandiosity of nature than they are lost in the crowd of the urban carnival. Rather, their lives revolve around a harbor and ocean that have been more or less tamed and harnessed by the city around them – relatively harmless even in the most extreme circumstances, as this dramatic rescue video illustrates. Below is a montage of a busy day in Sydney Harbor, as crisscrossed by boats, ships, and ferries as any square in New York or London is by pedestrians and cars. Appearing like playspaces for tiny toys, Sydney’s watched and controlled public realms appear to be just what Loutit titles them: “bathtubs”.
December 12th, 2006
Melbourne Mondays, dreaded by most, but not when the sun’s shining.
La Trobe Street
December 9th, 2006
Australia is suffering from its worst drought in years. Meanwhile, smoke from bushfires in eastern Victoria has blanketed Melbourne in a thick, toxic haze.
October 28th, 2006
I’ve moved. Finally settled at last and now have a 3051 postcode — North Melbourne. Not only have a I moved but have also secured full time employment — I’m finally feeling like I’ve arrived home and I wish for the past ten weeks of limbo to become a faint memory ASAP.
Anyhow, North Melbourne. I’m from bush practically, and the bush in the opposite direction from where I am now.
October 17th, 2006
Most of Sydney’s oldest and now busiest roads were built on ridges of the sandtone that much of Sydney lies on. At the junction of five of these roads, about five kilometres from the Sydney CBD is the suburb of Crows Nest. Aptly named because it towers above much of Sydney. Even in the low rise office block I work in, I can see seventy kilometres to the west and south and to the Pacific Ocean in the east.
Whilst Crows Nest could never hope to match the liveliness of Sydney’s eastern suburbs, it has a vitality rarely matched in Sydney’s north. Here are some photos from the Crows Nest Street Fair taken on Sunday, 15th of October 2006.
Children and adults alike trying to catch bead chains being thrown from the awning of a building.