Lee Fook Chee’s Hong Kong, Photographs from the 1950s

Authors: Patricia Chiu and Edward Stokes
Translator: Jennifer Chan
Publisher: The Photographic Heritage Foundation (HK) with The Commercial Press (HK), 2015
Format: Bilingual hardback, 255mm x 280mm, 216pp.
Photos: Duotone and colour
ISBN: 978-962-07-5657-3

 

Unless two strangers, Lee Fook Chee and Edward Stokes, had crossed paths this book almost certainly would not have been published. Thankfully, their chance meeting took place. The publication of this uniquely Hong Kong photographic history is the result.

This Hong Kong photographic memoir is based on the images and life story of Lee Fook Chee. Unknown in his lifetime, Lee died in 2012 assured that his treasured photos, a legacy he held with great pride, at last had been recognized. He knew they would be published in ‘his’ book.

Patricia Chiu’s historical narrative is enriched by Lee’s oral history. Together they take us beyond the general accounts of postwar immigration to the gritty realities of Lee’s origins: as an orphan in 1920s Singapore, his arrival as a young seaman in Hong Kong in 1947, and his later photography business centred on The Peak.

Lee Fook Chee reflected in 2012, ‘It was fate that I came to Hong Kong, and it’s fate that I met Mr Stokes. My photos were good, and now they are in safe hands.’

Patricia Chiu, the author of Lee Fook Chee’s Hong Kong, talking with Lee Fook Chee at their first meeting in October 2011.

Lee Fook Chee’s varied photos portray Hong Kong during the 1950s. His images, taken while he earned a hard-scrabble living selling photographs to tourists, were almost all captured between 1954 and 1960. Together they form a time-capsule of that decade of great change. Throughout the 1950s Lee Fook Chee, self-taught immigrant photographer, roamed Hong Kong alone. Camera in hand, independent and resolved, his own man.

‘Lee Fook Chee’s life, and his photographs taken during the 1950s, reflect the experiences of the city around him. Photography for Lee was first and foremost a way to make a living. Yet despite this, in his later years he knew that his work had great value for Hong Kong.’
Bernard Charnwut Chan, Patron, The Photographic Heritage Foundation