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Past Meets Present: Two Takes on Double Exposure Photography in Hong Kong

By Stasia Fong 14 October 2014
Double exposure usually means you forgot to change your roll of film and accidentally took a second photograph on top of a previous shot. Sometimes this can be a beautiful oversight, and other times it can ruin a perfect image.

Fan Ho - Shattered Alley

  Despite this accidental path to art or ruin, double exposure photography is a style pursued by digital and film photographers including Fan Ho and Justyna Zduńczyk. Both photographers captured Hong Kong with rather different perspectives; Ho’s photographs were taken in the 1950s and 60s, and Zduńczyk’s in 2013. Localiiz catches up with these split-focus photographers to discuss their love of double exposures.

Fan Ho - Forget Me Not

  In June, we featured the vintage works of master photographer Fan Ho and we couldn’t resist sharing his newest pieces – never developed photographs of Hong Kong, paired to form a brand new perspective. “While I was reviewing and archiving my negatives, I noticed that when I combined two or more together, I got a really interesting effect. I call this technique ‘making something old new again’,” Ho explains. Ho's unique process takes time and patience according to the artist. “I have to imagine the scenery first in my mind. After that, I sought out my archive. It’s a lot of trial and error.”

Fan Ho - Of Big and Small

  Ho opts for traditional methods, using a darkroom to develop his double exposures and then using Photoshop for treatment. His effort paid off with a multitude of new works, featuring gorgeous overlays of people, streets, and nature. This new collection is gaining Ho attention online, such as The Huffington Post, The Guardian, and The Washington Post. As the humblest of artists, Ho responds warmly to his spike in viewership. “I am glad that at 83, I am able to inspire people.”

Justyna Zduńczyk - Double Hong Kong No. 16

  Fast forward to the present day and Zduńczyk’s series, ‘Double Hong Kong’'. Originally from Poland, the photographer was enamoured with the city's hustle and bustle on a recent visit. “Life in Poland is quite different than in Hong Kong. The major Polish cities are not so well adapted for the residents, and the highest residential blocks have 10 floors. Since visiting, Hong Kong has always been on my mind.”

Justyna Zduńczyk Double Hong Kong No. 23

  For as long as she can remember, double exposure photography fascinated Zduńczyk, and Hong Kong proved to be the perfect subject for her to test the technique. “I think that double exposure intensifies feelings. It shows how rushed and intense a city can be,” Zduńczyk explains. Unlike Ho, Zduńczyk moved away from traditional methods to more modern techniques. “Previously, I was using my analog camera, but I couldn’t see the results immediately. I had to wait for my film to be developed. Now, I use the double exposure function in my camera, which allows me to combine two pictures together. I shoot one picture after another. After the first frame I look for a good shot for my second frame, and I can immediately see the result on the screen of my camera, and then I use Adobe Lightroom to work further on my files.”

Justyna Zduńczyk Double Hong Kong No. 18

  Despite the photographers’ differing methods, the goal is similar – to pair complementary images for their desired outcome. “Hong Kong is a mix of people and buildings which are very connected and I try to show it in pictures,” Zduńczyk explains. It is this interaction between the organic and the static that parallels past and present in Ho and Zduńczyk’s work so perfectly. Ho’s work focuses on old Hong Kong’s simplicity and its people interacting amongst layers of minimalistic surroundings, while Zduńczyk’s shots of present day Hong Kong offer a visually dense interaction of subject matter.

Justyna Zduńczyk Double Hong Kong No. 10

  So what happens when we show them each other’s work? “When I first saw Fan Ho's photographs I thought that it was a masterpiece of double exposure. He transported me to an amazing, nostalgic land. Hong Kong has radically changed since then. With a great sensitivity he combined two realities, his pictures are aesthetic and light-filled,” Zduńczyk tells Localiiz.

Fan Ho - Twins Alley

  Ho is also a fan of Zduńczyk’s work, and says that viewing her photographs is inspiring future pieces. His work is currently exhibited in the Pottinger Hotel in Hong Kong, and he will be in Hong Kong for his book launch and exhibition of 'A Hong Kong Memoir' during the second half of November. In turn, Zduńczyk hopes to continue her Double Hong Kong series next year. Perhaps in the future, the two will find their work exhibited side by side?   Got anything you'd like Localiiz to share? Send us your stuff!  

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Born in Singapore and raised in Hong Kong, Stasia Fong is a freelance writer with dreams of breaking into the television industry and executive produce her own television show.