Award-winning photographer Kurt Tong has his first solo exhibition in London at the Photofusion gallery. 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.
I have followed his work over the last few years and for me it has a certain calming effect and resonance. So I was delighted to see his first solo exhibition announced. The exhibition at Photofusion will showcase two projects of Tong’s more recent work: In Case It Rains in Heaven, and Memories, Dreams; Interrupted.
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 ill treatment of disabled children in India. He worked for many other NGOs and covered stories from Female Infanticide to ballroom dancers. He gained a Masters in documentary photography at the London College of Communications in 2006 and began working on much 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. Kurt’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 upcoming shows solo shows at Photofusion and Compton Verney.
Summary from Photofusion:
In Case it Rains in Heaven is a series of photographs of items made of joss paper to be burned as offerings for the dead. Traditionally, many Chinese believe that when a person dies, he leaves with no earthly possessions and it's up to his descendants to provide for him in the afterlife until his reincarnation. Originally, coins and animals were buried with the dead, but when that proved too expensive for commoners, they began burning joss paper decorated with seals, stamps, silver or gold paint, as offerings to the spirits to ensure they lived well in the afterlife. In the last 50 years, these offerings have become more and more elaborate as objects are molded from the paper, some reflecting traditional culture, but many reflecting the consumer culture which is taking over China. Cars, washing machines and MacDonalds meals are made out of the paper, and entire shops have been set up selling an array of joss paper products. The exhibition showcases the variety of objects chosen to be depicted for this purpose, and will also feature a video work of the burning ceremony.
Memories, Dreams; Interrupted is a series of works which explores the concept of memories. Scientists have suggested that our memories are stored like jpegs; broken down into small pieces and put away. When we recall an event, the pieces are put back together; any parts missing are automatically filled in by our brain, thus altering our memories of the event. Tong’s photographs are taken at places where he goes with his daughters, familiar places where memories are made, but places which are constantly changing, becoming a metaphor for the interpretation of memories. He captures these places on film, using techniques which purposely degrade the film. The image is then reconstructed using digital means.
I hope to post comment on this exhibition when I visit it later next week. This exhibition is on in London until the 26th September 2010. For more information visit Photofusion's show preview here.