Identity ‧ Commission

Ducky Tse – From [The center] to [The edge]: A Forum on the Politics of Border and Hong Kong’s Identity, April 22, 2018 – A Reflection.



In 2006, Ducky left his photo journalist career, as he believed life is too short and wanted to give more time to himself to create art. As luck would have it, he stumbled into people who defended the Queen’s Pier without pretense. Talking to people there, he felt the place resembled Utopia, filled with love and care. He did not think much of it and took a series of photos using large format camera. Two years later, realizing the photos could tell a story that could influence the people of Hong Kong, he published a book from that.  To Ducky, photography is part of a ministry. Hong Kong has a lot of emotions and different energies, and everything changes all the time. Over the last 20 years, there have been many events and movements shaping sociological views and group behaviors. From the faces in Hong Kong, to changes in Hong Kong identity and borders, the creation of art provides the opportunity to capture these changes – but many things go through the same cycles and you need to go back to the origin. As reality is multi-dimensional and excellence is in the eyes of the beholder, it is important to be aware of the origin, reflect, change from within, evolve and move on.


Images taken at certain points in time are important not only because they are historical anchors, they also tell us where we are from so we understand how we get to where we are, and hence establish our individual identities.  This allows projectiles for the future, as well as creates meaning on what we might believe in and strive for. When events are captured at different points in time based on what are happening to Hong Kong people, collective memory and group that reflect social change to the society come into play.   It is no longer a bunch of individuals making haphazard noises, but movements driven from group opinions in writing the stories of Hong Kong. Yet, these movements, being political, economic and social in nature, are based on contradictions and emotions elicited as a result of awareness of identities, their borders and changes. Over time, the theme of “transition” emerged, espousing liminality, continuous changes and renewal.  Life influences lives.  Ducky elegantly captured images of events from the eyes of an artist and photographer, reflecting the constant change and renewal of himself in the creation of his art.  From “All That Matters” to “All That Doesn’t”; from 2D photographs of Hong Kong history to putting a yacht in a grass field to infer Hong Kong’s situation is a miracle, and overlapping three chief executives images to illustrate the paradox of integration and differences at the same time, to the recent 3D installations with one of the five installations that has flashing lights with imprinted Basic Law texts that embody continuation; and another installation with CCTVs that project infrared images representing utopia. Empathy and insights can best be amplified by experts in their relevant fields, because they see what others do not see and can help “connect the dots” and create meaning, which lends itself to appreciation.


To a novelist and cultural critic, Lawrence Pun relates Ducky’s work on images at the border as momentary lapses showing liminal space, and this begs the question of the limit of time and border of time. To Lawrence, the concept of border is new. Border is a cross between two spaces. It can also be a connection or a dividing line. The historical images from Ducky’s work such as Lee Tung Street, and Queen’s and Star Pier movements catalyzed the discussions on local identity. Given the recent contradictions with Hong Kong and China, this is further stretched into intercity discussion topics, whether it is comparisons between Hong Kong and Shanghai, a North South contrast, a three city, four city or six city comparison, a big Canton or a possible Shenzhen Hong Kong mega region. What is interesting about border is from the point of 1997, there has been a remapping of spaces whereby the comparison and integration of places result in the fear of integration as identities become dissolved in the process. The meshed identities and spaces create newness, which introduces new questions and thinking that we fear – for many, we need to talk about history and use our personal experience to reflect and overshadow it.


Artwork that creates impact transcends time, and means something to the daily lives of people. Ducky’s work has special meaning to Eric Ma, a retired professor of Journalism and Communication, not only because Eric knows and has worked with Ducky, but because the work has propelled him to reflect and relate back to his family and his life. Ducky’s photos on border are something that Eric cannot fully describe in writing, but it sparked the thinking that after researching for many years, there was some inner motivation to cross the border. The reflection led to the conclusion that in his doctoral research, he was actually researching himself, and the initial alienation from his brother in Mainland China finally led to subsequent openness and integration as one family, once superiority and inferiority complex are set aside. The contrasts and differences are now swapped, from observing the inwardness of a factory worker in China who has never seen a Hong Kong dollar bill, to the abundance of China relatives having two cars and two apartments – these emancipate changes that one can only be at peace if the burden of prejudice and differences are set aside. In Ducky’s work on “All That Matters” and “All That – Doesn’t”, the images remind one that in Hong Kong, there is a lack of patriotism and there is no order of history and hierarchy of authority – but Hong Kong can reignite because it has the space and flexibility, and prosperity will come after stagnation.  To Ducky, a lot of things go through the same cycles, and you go back to the place of origin. While there are a lot of external changes, a step change can only take place from within, through continuous awareness and metamorphosis, and aim to do the best he can with his art creation.


 Dr. David C. W. Chin

Dr. David C. W. Chin is a seasoned professional in marketing, market research and analytics.  Educated in Canada and Hong Kong, he earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees in business, counselling, and tourism and hospitality management. at At the time of writing, he was a business consultant and trainer, and lectured at various academic institutions. In addition to his commercial role, he enjoys writing and coaching. He can be reached at [email protected]