The Film Negative Detective – I will not abandon you as orphans (work-in-progress)

Gum Bichromate Print

Artist’s Statement

In the past five years, I am obsessed with collecting unwanted, abandoned film negatives – those celluloid imprinted with personal history and memory that do not belong to me yet I am immensely curious of. Amongst them there is a roll of film negatives particularly intrigues me. It shows 36 frames of monochrome photographic images depicting two male photographers picturing two female friends in Hong Kong from the 1960s. Nearly half of the frames were malfunctioned, partially exposed, something was wrong with the shutter. (Let’s hope the ruined images did no harm to the relationship.) I made a contact print in the darkroom. Through a close reading of the images and how they were sequenced, more questions emerge. How relationship was imagined in photography before the time I was born? What was a ‘selfie’ in the 1960s? Why the female counterparts never had the chance to hold the camera? How male photographers framed the existence of woman? These questions and subsequent imageries in my head became the source of creation. I create a set of gum dichromate prints to response to my urge to contexualise and authorise some interpretations of what I envisage from found photography through direct printing, collage and double exposure. Gum dichromate printing is an alternative and historic photographic printing process that is nearly abandoned because of the laborious process – yet it is the laborious process that allows me to be investigative. In this exhibition proposal, I include a black-and-white silver gelatin print and fourteen gum dichromate prints to juxtapose my experience as a film negative detective to look for romance and other anecdote.


This body of work (formerly titled ‘I will not abandon you as orphans (work-in-progress)’ was included in the ‘Photography as Methods’ exhibition (curated by Carol Chow and Paul Yeung) in 2016 in Hong Kong, a collateral exhibition of the 4th Hong Kong International Photography Festival.