“I didn’t understand why people were so unhappy in this city, but I want to cheer them up with my photography and artwork,” says Tommy Fung
There are so many great Hong Kong artists adding colour, vibrance and an artistic perspective to the city. Luckily, we have a range of art galleries and spaces, including Tai Kwun, The Mills and H Queens, to showcase these talents. And one of our faves is Tommy Fung, a surrealist photographer we talked to during an exhibition at Hotel Jen Hong Kong.
Interview with Tommy Fung
Having moved to Venezuela with his family at the age of nine, and later becoming a professional photographer there, Tommy Fung decided to start from scratch in Hong Kong when he came back to this vibrant city. Since putting his stunning surrealist photography on the internet in 2017, Tommy is now a renowned local surrealist artist with a dedicated following on Instagram. We chatted with him about becoming an unconventional photographer and to see why he’s amazing at what he does.
Hi, Tommy. Thanks for sitting down with us. What led you down this creative path of becoming a surrealist artist?
Hong Kong is a great city and I was hoping on my return that people here would be happy, but it turned out a lot of people here are really stressed and sad. I didn’t understand why people were so unhappy in this city, but I want to cheer them up with my photography and artwork. There weren’t any artists or photographers solely using photoshop as a tool to express themselves, so I thought why not give it a go, to do something different than others? I started doing that a year and a half ago, just to see whether people would like it or not, and as a fun hobby. The response turned out to be really good.
Are there stories behind your work or are they more like random thoughts?
They’re totally random! I see something interesting on the streets and I create something funny. Sometimes, I’m watching the news (even if it’s bad news), and I would want to express myself. I feel like one of the problems in Hong Kong is that people keep things bottled up and don’t express themselves. With social issues like air pollution and land problems, I try to pick them up and share my point of view via photography. I’m not saying that my opinion is right but it’s just my perspective. If you don’t agree, then let’s have a discussion.
Why are you drawn to creating surrealist artwork?
I don’t know either. Maybe because the humour of Venezuela is very different from Hong Kong. So for those of us who have lived there, we can make fun of every situation. We don’t take everything too seriously and we love exaggerating things. I think it’s a great way to make your point more obvious. It started out as a style that I wanted to experiment with and it grew on me. I want to make people think that something is real but actually it’s not – just to play with people’s mind.
Hong Kong is the main character in your work, what do you like about this cosmopolitan city?
Everything about Hong Kong is new and interesting to me. I used to visit my family here every now and then, but it’s different now. This city is so special, packed with tall buildings, skyscrapers; however, just ten minutes away you get the mountains, the islands, the sea. You have the city and the natural resources all in one place, for me it’s a perfect combination.
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If HK has shortage of land then why the government is deliberately underestimating the development potential of brownfield sites? 真係冇地咩? 善用棕地, 解決房屋問題! . #SaveOurCountryParks #守衛郊野公園 #郊野公園不是選項 . 723 hectares of brownfield sites are not included in any government development project. Instead they keep saying to develop on the "periphery" of our country parks 新界明明有723公頃棕地可以納入發展, 解決房屋問題. 但政府偏偏一意孤行硬係要發展郊野公園邊陲
What feeds your inspiration?
Movies. I got a lot of inspiration from classic movies like Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, Matrix, Inception, etc. And I try to incorporate those ideas and make them Hong Kong-style. I want to help foreign people see the fun side of Hong Kong too.
Being the winner of Affordable Art Fair’s Discovery: Photography Prize competition that was held in association with Hotel Jen in 2018, do you think you’re more confident in being a surrealist artist now?
I feel very lucky that a lot of people are following my account and liking my photos. This award is a great opportunity for me to show others my work. It surely gives me more confidence, but at the same time I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing – because I like it, and I think there are a lot of topics and ideas that I can keep making fun of (laughs). I think people do hope to see more creative things from me.
If you weren’t a photographer, what would you have become?
This is such a hard question. I was a graphic designer, but soon became a photographer after discovering how fun it was to take pictures. Now I’m jumping from being a photographer to being a surrealist artist – and it’s so surreal for me. I think the most important thing is to be happy and to do what you feel passionate about. Right now, I’m happy with what I do and I make others happy too. It’s all so meaningful to me.
Keep up-to-date with Tommy Fung’s work here