PHOTOS: Hong Kong artist with eye for the ‘surreal’ turns city into a playground

Photos: Tommy Fung via Instagram
Photos: Tommy Fung via Instagram

Living in a place that’s as photographed as Hong Kong, it’s a rare occasion that we actually get excited about anybody’s photos of the tourist sights. However, Tommy Fung isn’t just anybody.

Hong Kong-born Fung, who emigrated to South America in the 1990s, returned to the city last year and found himself charmed by the iconic, if well-trodden, sights, and the everyday absurdities that most residents take for granted.

“Coming back, I saw a lot of things which regular Hongkongers may have become ‘numb’ to … but to me, everything seems new and fresh. This is a new start for me – I wanted to make pictures that I would find interesting,” he said in an interview with Apple Daily.

Fung, who was employed as a full-time photographer in South America, took to the streets with his trusty Canon DSLR and began shooting. Afterwards, he’d pore over the photos in post-processing and produce mind-bending scenes with his Photoshop skills (which, frankly, border on wizardry).

Before long, his photos – which are posted to Instagram and Facebook under the name “Surreal HK” – made people sit up and take notice (or zoom in and hit the “like” button, to be precise).

Fung takes pedestrian, but recognizably “Hong Kong” sights such as the Star Ferry, Mr. Softee ice cream vans, and even a KMB bus stop, and shifts them slightly off-kilter. In his imagination, the circular-windowed Jardine House building in Central can be peeled like a banana, there’s really a lion on Lion Rock, and an enormous meat cleaver-shaped sign in Sham Shui Po is in fact, sharp enough to slice into the road beneath it (based on a lot of comments scattered across the interwebz, that last one may have been too convincing).

In one of our personal favorites, the photographer has envisioned the Jumbo Kingdom floating restaurant in Aberdeen being taken over by a mythical sea monster, with its tentacles flailing wildly out of the pagoda-like structure.

While his images are indeed whimsical and often funny on a surface level, Fung tries to imbue social commentary in a lot of his creations. Take, for example, his picture of a grim reaper trudging solemnly through the smoggy city, captioned “air pollution is no longer an invisible killer”.

Sometimes, the multi-talented Fung will produce works riffing on festivals that are happening at the time, like the recently passed Cheung Chau Bun Festival:

One particularly deft pastiche came in the form of this Dragon Boat Festival (or Tuen Ng Festival in Chinese) picture, which capitalized on the Black Rainstorm that had descended on the city just a few days before:

At the end of the day, Fung says his goal is to increase people’s appreciation for Hong Kong unique culture and eccentricities. “I really like this place, there’s a lot of interesting things around, but locals may have become desensitized to them. I just want to make Hongkongers laugh and be happy.”

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