Represented by The Photographers’ Gallery in London, and Jen Bekman Gallery in New York, Photographer Kurt Tong’s The Queen, the Chairman and I is now showing as part of the London Festival of Photography at the The Horse Hospital.
We sat Kurt down to get the latest on his London exhibition, and what is coming up next.
Blurb: Congratulations on the fantastic exhibition at The Horse Hospital. Can you tell us briefly about the project?
Kurt: The Queen, the Chairman and I is a multilayered narrative picture book dealing with the story of Hong Kong/South China of the last 100 years and the Asian Diaspora through the lives of my family. It pays equal importance to found photo, found items and new photos. For the exhibition, only a small selection of the photographs are hung, the venue is set up as a Chinese tea house with the books on the table. Visitors are encouraged to slow down, enjoy some chinese tea and spend some time reading through the book.
Blurb: Your work has a very emotional and personal aspect. Is this important to you?
Kurt: I started my career as a documentary photographer, chasing stories all over the world. I look back now and realise I never really got past the surface and never really did the subject, the story, or myself justice. After finishing my MA in 2006, I started looking much closer for stories and ideas, experiences I had, stories that are already familiar to me, although none is as personal as this. By tackling subjects that are already known to me, it makes me think much harder about how to approach each project. The way of working suits me much better. The emotional side probably comes naturally with personal stories.
Blurb: You’ve produced a book of the project using Blurb, can you tell us about the book?
Kurt: From the very beginning of the project, it was always going to be laid out as a storybook and the uncoated paper is just what I wanted to give the book that tactile, personal feel. Although I have yet to decide exactly how I want to produce the book as the ‘release’ format. I can’t make up my mind whether to make a small number of handmade books, release it on Blurb, or have it published through a conventional publisher. Making a good book is a slow process and I want it to be perfect before it’s available.
Blurb: The Queen, the Chairman and I has received great acclaim – being selected as a finalist for the 2012 European Publishers Award, and an exhibition in Melbourne Australia. What is next for you?
Kurt: The project will be travelling around Europe. I have three great venues confirmed so far and hopeful more will be secured soon. I am also moving back to Hong Kong in August to start work on my new book. It will be another story book with a strong anthropological element to it but I will keep the details to myself for now!