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Interview: Following Trams With Irene Flanhardt

By Localiiz 9 October 2015

Header image courtesy of Irene Flanhardt

We catch up with Hong Kong based artist and photographer Irene Flanhardt to find out about her latest photo exhibition, Following Trams and Two Depots which captures the life of our city’s iconic trams.

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Irene Flanhardt. Photo: John Yan.

What is the exhibition about? 

“The exhibition serves as a platform for sharing a new depth of knowledge about the trams we all love. We are showcasing 151 photographs, taken by ten different photographers, which capture the trams at all hours of the day, from 4.06 am to 1.07 am, as they journey from the depots to the terminuses.”

What do the photographs show? 

“The images show the mood of passengers, landmark buildings on Hong Kong Island, various lighting and weather conditions, and road users on the tracks. The much-sought-after tram Number 120, which still retains the 1949 post-war style, also makes an appearance.”

Photo: Irene Flanhardt

Why did you want to put on an exhibition about trams? 

“Initially the idea came from Kai Tak Cruise Terminal (The 1925 Club), who wanted me to do a tram exhibition. I was not tempted because the subject seemed too common to generate any real interest, but somehow this idea lingered in my head. My quest for knowledge of Hong Kong trams began and I started reading tram books and doing research. I saw challenges to do an extraordinary show, so I started looking into the areas which others had not ventured.”

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Photo: Irene Flanhardt

And what areas were these? 

“Well, I realised that Hong Kong Tramways (HKT) had rarely granted the public, or particularly the tram fans, access to their two depots in Whitty Street and Sai Wan Ho, so I wrote to HKT to request their approval for our ten photographers to shoot the two depots and they approved. It took five months to prepare all the work for the exhibition.”

How did you capture images of the trams throughout the entire day? 

“There are six tram routes on Hong Kong Island running eastbound and westbound. Each route was covered by at least one or two photographers who captured various scenes in every hour. Alan Tse went to Whitty Street Tram Deport at 4 am to wait for a tram driver to report for duty, Wesley Chan took the first tram leaving Kennedy Town Terminus at 5.04 am, Michelle Chan took the last tram returning to Kennedy Town Terminus and happily encountered the Number 200 maintenance tram (commonly known as “night walker”), and Karen Choi took the photo at 1.07 am where there were no other trams in a quiet street.”

Photo: Irene Flanhardt

Did you come across any challenges when shooting? 

“Well, it was not easy for Karen Choi to shoot at 1.07 am because she met some drunkards who came out from nowhere all of a sudden, and gave her a bit of a scare... but that didn’t stop her from capturing some fantastic shots!”

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