Portrait of Hong Kong

Todd Darling

2019 - Ongoing

Portrait of Hong Kong  

is a collaborative portrait project that memorializes Hong Kongers struggle for an identity while highlighting the social issues that face the city’s inhabitants during the popular anti-government movement. Individually the portraits and text may tell a simple story about daily life or address larger issues such as universal suffrage or inequality, but as a whole they tell a nuanced story about Hong Kong and her people. 

A central issue many of the Hong Kong people in my portraits are wrestling with is how to define an identity and being challenged in that pursuit by cultural, social, or political pressure. There is a lot of frustration and anger over the recent attempted implementation of an extradition law allowing people in Hong Kong to be tried in mainland China, and over alleged police brutality during subsequent protests. This is apparent in one particular portrait where a subject posed with a gun to their head. Some artist-participants express frustration over familial pressure to conform to parental expectations in their professional lives. Some participants worry Hong Kong’s aesthetic is changing and housing is unaffordable. Others say they are troubled by Hong Kong’s materialism. What’s not expressed in the portraits but important to mention is that self-censorship is already affecting some artists I’ve met whose livelihoods rely on mainland China.

The process for making the photos is a collaboration. I suggest that people consider what they want to say about their lives and select a place significant to them as the setting for the portrait. I scout the location and attempt to create an image there that reflects the character of the person and the idea they want to communicate so that the text and the photograph work off of each other to enhance the final piece. The final step includes making the print in my studio and meeting with the participants so they can add their text to the print. 

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  • October 11, 2019: "Hong Kong Independence. Wait some years more. Shut up.
    Hong Kong is ruined. Don't give up.
    Go for it. Spy. In 2014
    I was enlightened, no longer ignorant In 2016.
    I don't want to give up on Hong Kong. I can't live with a mediocre life " - Andy Chan in an alley-way in Central. Chan is a Hong Kong pro-independence political activist. He is a founding member and the convenor of the Hong Kong National Party, the first party to advocate for Hong Kong independence.

  • September 16, 2019: "Without fight there is no change." - Leung Kwok-hung AKA Long Hair, Hong Kong politician and activist on a roof top in Sham Shui Po. Yeung is considered a localist who advocates for Hong Kong independence.

  • August 28, 2019. "Hongkonger standing strong!
    These are the courageous people, creating their own possibilities!
    ." - Denise Ho, activist and artist at a #MeToo gathering held in Chater Garden to protest alleged police misconduct during a strip-search of a female arrestee.

  • September 19, 2019: "If God insists we can only gain freedom through war,
    Enemies of ours shall surrender, no matter how strong they are" - Yeung Ke Cheong, activist, at the Prince Edward MTR station memorial for alleged victims of police brutality during a clearnace operation there. Yeung is considered a localist who advocates for Hong Kong independence.

  • April 16, 2019 - Hong Kong SAR, P.R. China: "Born in chaos.Live at the moment.Peace of mind is the rarest.My lung might be black but my heart is not.Process." - Tin, b-boy at the Urban Council Centenary Garden. Photograph by Todd R. Darling

  • May 15, 2019 - Hong Kong SAR, P.R. China: "(it's a lyrics for a song titled: Jiu Jo, can be translated to "Just Do It")
    I believe in fate, I believe there is always a way out
    I believe if we persist, we will make it
    Each steps are heavy in this long road. Though reality is cruel, we can only pray.
    What happen next, no one can tell, but all we can do now is just do it.

    Whatever happens, I will still do it the same way, coz I got my own path.
    Whatever happens, I will still do it the same way, coz I am what I am.
    ." - Kit, LMF rap group at the Mido Cafe, Yau Ma Tei. Photograph by Todd R. Darling

  • June 12, 2019. "The people united will never be defeated." - William Liu, activist during anti-government protests in Admiralty outside of Government Headquarters.

  • July 05, 2018 - Hong Kong SAR, China: "曾經北京話俾一國兩制香港,如今已經變成一國一點五制,喺習近平管治下,我地有既自由越來越少,但我地唔會放棄,因為香港係我地既家,我地值得擁有民主、自由,無人再需要因為恐懼要離開呢度。

    Beijing has once promised Hong Kong “One Country, Two Systems”, but it has become “One Country, 1.5 Systems” now. Under Xi Jinping’s rule, our freedom has been eroding, but we will never give up because Hong Kong is our home. We deserve democracy and freedom. No one should be forced to flee their home." - Joshua Wong, Activist in Admiralty outside LegCo. (caption written July 04, 2019) Photograph by Todd R. Darling

  • June 01, 2019 - Hong Kong SAR, P.R. China: "你光鮮名成利就,我不被社會接受。

    反送中No China extradition

    You looked glamorous and gained the fame, I was rejected by the society.

    What is right and wrong? How to define noble? There are grey areas between black and white. Those evil philanthropists or those fight against the law for justice, who are more repulsive? Hong Kong is like the resplendent place on the sea—all that glitters is not gold, who really knows the reality behind the reputation?

    Many people have been labelled as useless, but are they really that useless? Just because of the “lower classes”, the “upper classes” exist. Without the underprivileged, is it still jealous to be noble? Their appearance may be not as good as others, but it’s undoubtedly better than those fake assholes.

    Fuck You Carrie Lam
    No China Extradition
    Fuck the Police
    No More Fake People
    We are not Thug
    ." - TTS (right) and LYN (left), rappers outside the old China Bank in Central. Photograph by Todd R. Darling

  • June 17, 2019 - Hong Kong SAR, P.R. China: "香港人最難做到嘅事係平行自己嘅心理
    每人表面專心做自己事 —

    For Hong Kong people, the hardest thing is to find a peace of mind
    On the surface, everyone is focused on their daily life -
    Work, study, paying rent, socializing, taking care of their family...
    But inside, we are all filled with overwhelming sense of hopelessness and helplessness
    No one sees a way out for our society
    ." - Nile (Young Hysan, rapper, Aberdeen. Photograph by Todd R. Darling

  • May 21, 2018 - Hong Kong SAR, P.R. China: "我沒有自命灑脫
    I ain’t free and easy
    I can’t feel happiness nor sorrow
    Gain and loss like knots
    It turns heartbreaking to be vain
    Who can be excluded from incompletency?
    Why I have to separate with my beloved, but to go along with the unwanted?
    Choices never exist in my time.
    《一生不可自決》”Choices never exist in my time” by 陳百強 Danny Chan, 1991 (Caption written June 27, 2019)
    ." - Yau Wai Ching, 2016 Legco member who was disqualified for making derogatory changes about China to the oath during her swearing into the legislature. Photographed on Des Vouex Rd. Sheung Wan. Photograph by Todd R. Darling

  • May 08, 2019 - Hong Kong SAR, P.R. China: "Can anyone tell me where is the Hong Kong that we used to live?
    Work means nothing, might as well cheat and apply government welfare
    However, I still got my integrity, therefore I still go beg for works
    Yet, how hard I worked, how much I made and saved, it's still no fucking use

    However "dope" your apartment you claimed, I still don't see it, it's like your IG, that no one's following and liked. Coz all I see is a shit hole, where I can't even open the fucking window. Why don't you just go to hell! For the sake of money, your 1 apartment can split into 12, a step in and that's the size of the it. Property is really the god in here? And I can sleep in a shit hole so that you can put on your Rolex.

    100bucks for a shitty meal, the worst part is you pay for the shit from those jerks.
    Living standard is so fucking far off, all I hear are loans I can get to remind me that can buy more and more, so as to push me to death?
    Welfares so rich that are all given to the immigrants, should we really have to congratulate the Hong Kong of ours?" - Phat, LMF rap group in Shuen Wan. Photograph by Todd R. Darling