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He’s Got Vision!

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Force of Nature Hua Zi has made it his life’s work to bring Chinese photographic art to the world – and now he’s doing that and more from his new DB studio.

REPORTING BY Raphael Blet
PHOTOS BY Richard Gordon – www.richardgordonphotography.com

Chances are you’ve heard of Hua Zi. You may know him as the founder of China Visual, and the brains behind the annual Hong Kong National Photography Art Exhibition and the All-China Photographers Association. You may know him as an award-winning photographer or the publisher of Photo World. You may know him simply as Herman, a fellow resident, who’s been living in DB with his wife and three kids since 2014.

What you may not know is that he’s just opened a studio space in DB North Plaza. More on that later. Born in Shandong, China, Herman moved to Hong Kong in 2008 through the government’s Excellent Talents Entry Program. At the time, he was already a well-known photographer and the publisher of Modern Photography News, China Photography and Hong Kong-based Photo World.

His Complete Works of Chinese Photographers, published in 1991, went on to win the China National Book Award. “I have been engaged in photography for nearly 40 years. In saying I’m a photographer, I feel like I’m more of a curator,” Herman opens. “My aim has long been to bring Chinese art and Chinese photographers to the world through the plat form of photography.”

To say that Herman has achieved this goal would be understatement: In 2019, he was named one of the 180 most influential people in the development of photography at an event in Cormeilles, France, put on to commemorate the 180th anniversary of the birth of photography. He is currently the executive chairman of the Golden Horse Award for Chinese Art and the chairman of the All-China Photographers Association. Every year, COVID allowing, he holds photography exhibitions for large scale cultural- and artistic-exchange activities across the world.

THE CURATOR

“In addition to photography itself, my work is the organisation and promotion of photographic activities,” Herman explains. “My main activity in Hong Kong is the annual Hong Kong National Photography Art Exhibition, which solicits contributions from Chinese photographers around the world.” Every year, thousands of photographers provide hundreds of thousands of pictures to participate in the exhibition, and out of these 1,200 photos are selected.

The 70,000 strong All-China Photographers Association, which Herman founded in 1992, is also a pretty big deal. “We interact through a professional photography network platform, and we hold photography competitions, exhibitions and various photography-exchange events in Hong Kong and overseas,” Herman says. “On average, there are about four large-scale events per year, with hundreds of Chinese photographers from all over the world participating each time.

“Photographic artists need to interact with each other,” Herman adds. “And events like these also encourage the public to take an interest in photography.” As an extension of all this, Herman hosts and art directs numerous big-name, mainland-based fashion and talent shows, including the New Silk Road Model Contest and the Miss Tourism International beauty pageant. One of his plans for 2023 is to host a Miss Yachting International Competition here in DB. [Watch this space!]

ON PHOTOGRAPHY

While Herman prefers not to focus on his own photography, he will say that his favourite subject to photograph is man and nature. “I think the fusion of man and nature is the most beautiful, and the most important,” he says.

Ask about his favourite photographers and Herman says: “I prefer a certain category of photography, not a certain photographer. I prefer documentary-themed photography. The photos I collect are old photos of important historical events, such as the Cultural Revolution in China, and old photos of Hong Kong.”

No surprise, Herman has a lot of cameras, from traditional, large-format cameras and film cameras to digital cameras of all styles. These days, however, he prefers to shoot with his phone. “This makes it easy to send photos out on social media for everyone to see and discuss,” he explains. “This is the age of digital photography, photography itself is a medium.” For upcoming photographers, Herman has a key piece of advice. “I hope that all young people, including those who are beginners in photography, do not focus too much on photographic equipment. The key is the eyes behind the camera and the brain behind the eyes. It doesn’t matter what camera you
shoot with, what matters is what you shoot.”

Landscape in post image 600x400

THE DB STUDIO

Now back to the new chic waterfront studio, Natural Space (@chinavisuallimit), an exhibition space-cum photography studio in DB North Plaza.

Ask Herman, who used to have showrooms in Central and in Beijing’s 798 Art District, why he chose the DB location and he says simply: “I don’t want to do it in the city centre now. I like the DB community where I live, and I like to interact with the residents here. I like the environment and culture very much.

DB is a window to the world!” While Herman is keen to point out that he is not running a gallery, and the art on show at the studio is not for sale, he says exceptions can be made: “Our exhibitions are not for sale unless the visitor actively requests to buy. We will decide whether to sell according to the artist’s wishes.”

Though low-key and still in soft-launch, Herman has big plans for Natural Space, and he has already hosted a number of exhibitions, including one by Lantau-based contemporary expressionist painter Leslie Lachiche. A selection of his own photographs, capturing the natural beauty of Lantau and Hong Kong, are on permanent display.

Going forward, exhibitions at Natural Space will change every two weeks; many will feature prizewinning photos from the competitions Herman organises. “The photography exhibitions will each have different themes, such as Tibet, Xinjiang, and of course, animals and flowers,” Herman says.

“Artists who want to present their solo exhibitions at Natural Space are welcome to do so,” he adds, calling on anyone interested to get in touch. Herman is keen to get fellow residents involved and make Natural Space something of a social hub. He started getting the word out last month by hosting a Halloween Dress-Up Contest at the studio, and more events are in the offing. A photography studio, as well as a place for exhibitions, Natural Space offers a range of services, including family portraits and event photography.

Herman is also experimenting in post-production and can have photos printed on everything from rugs to porcelain. “Come to my studio and I can print your picture on a wine bottle,” he concludes with a grin.

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