Lives & works: Hong Kong.
Photographer Kurt Tong ( b. Hong Kong, 1977) travelled his historic homeland, China, in a project to connect with his roots and explore his paternal ancestry and its links with the sea. This work, ‘Luzou from the Series Sweet Water, Bitter Earth, 2015’, is one of a series of prints that evolved from this project, where photographic negatives were symbolically submerged in the sea along his route, ‘allowing the sea to corrode the dye as a metaphor’ for his feeling of estrangement and lack of connection with his supposed homeland.
Tong has travelled widely and in 1999, co-founded Prema Vasam, a charitable home for disabled and disadvantaged children in Chennai, South India. Tong became a full-time photographer in 2003, winning the Luis Valtuena International Humanitarian Photography Award with his first picture story documenting the treatment of disabled children in India. He worked for many other NGOs and covered stories from Female Infanticide to ballroom dancers.
Moving to photographic work about more personal projects, he was winner of Photograph.Book.Now competition, the Hey, Hot Shot! competition and the Jerwood Photography Award, the latter for his project People’s Park, a wistful exploration of the now deserted Communist era public spaces. In Case it Rains in Heaven explored the practice of Chinese funeral offerings, and has been widely exhibited with among others, a solo exhibition at Compton Verney. A monograph of this work was published by Kehrer Verlag in 2011.
Tong’s recent work The Queen, The Chairman and I, is a multi-layered narrative picture book dealing with the story of Hong Kong over the last 100 years, and the Asian Diaspora shown through the lives of his own family and presented as a Chinese teahouse. The project has been exhibited across five continents, including the Victoria Museum in Liverpool, UK, Galleri Image in Denmark and Visual Art Center at the Chinese Cultural Foundation of San Francisco. The installation recently opened at the Impressions Gallery in Bradford and will continue to tour in different venues across the UK over the next two years. Much of Tong’s recent work has moved towards installation and sculpture-based work, pushing the boundaries of photography. Echoed Visions, a series of installations which questions photography, made its debut at the Identity Art Gallery, Hong Kong in February 2014.
心.思.過., a public participation project set within an classical Chinese garden in Zhongshan opened in August 2015 and will become a permanent public feature within the park. Tong’s latest work Sweet Water, Bitter Earth made its debut at Unseen in Amsterdam and further touring exhibitions of this work are planned in 2017 both in the UK and USA.
Kurt Tong is represented by Jen Bekman Gallery in New York and The Photographer’s Gallery in London.
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