Hedda Morrison’s Hong Kong, Photographs & Impressions 1946 – 47

Author: Edward Stokes
Translator: Jennifer Chan
Publisher: Hong Kong Conservation Photography Foundation (HK) with Hong Kong University Press (HK), 2005
Format: Bilingual hardback, 255mm x 280mm, 300pp.
Photos: Duotone
ISBN: 962-209-754-5

 

In September 1946 Hong Kong was recovering from war. It remained little changed from some decades earlier. To that China coast port came the photographer Hedda Morrison, best known today for her images of Peking (Beijing) in the 1930s.

Morrison, as a photographer, had found her life’s vocation in China. In September 1946, energized by her recent marriage, Hedda Morrison embraced the life of Hong Kong. For six months, cameras in hand, she roamed its streets, coasts and countryside. This book records the people and places she encountered.

Within a few years much of what Hedda Morrison photographed would be lost. Yet in 1946 – 47 Hong Kong’s urban and rural life still retained its old feel, its traditions and cultural ways: colonial precincts, dense Chinese streets, bustling markets, hawkers, nomadic fisherfolk and farmers. Edward Stokes’ essays portraying Hong Kong in these years mirror Morrison’s memorable images.

The book presents Morrison’s compelling documentary photos of Hong Kong, its people and life, together with narrative essays by Edward Stokes. Together, they vividly portray the Colony’s postwar years.

Professor Wang Gungwu and Edward Stokes, author of Hedda Morrison’s Hong Kong, at the 2005 book launch, The University of Hong Kong.

The human sympathy and striking compositions of Hedda Morrison’s photographs reflect the eye of a masterful photographer. Yet fewer than thirty of this book’s images have ever been seen before. It was those photos, first sighted in a 1946 government report, that prompted Edward Stokes in 1995 to begin searching for the original negatives – later discovered at the Harvard-Yenching Library of Harvard University. Harvard-Yenching became a greatly valued book publishing partner.

This is a unique record of a vanished Hong Kong: a complete pictorial account of how the Colony looked in the decades from the early 1930s to the 1950s. Hedda Morrison’s photographs will appeal to those who appreciate fine documentary images, Asian history and culture, postwar history, and the ethnography of now vanished crafts, trades and rural life.

The story of how Edward Stokes found and documented over five hundred negatives of Hong Kong is told in this superbly produced book. This bilingual book was later re-published as the English version Hong Kong As It Was (2009).