The qi of a person – Almond Chu’s portraits

Iizawa Kotaro (Photography Critic)

I received an email from Almond Chu, and was asked a favor to write an article for his portrait collections that is soon to be published. Speaking of Almond, I haven’t seen him for a long time already. We first met in mid-1980s, when Almond left Hong Kong to study in Japan. I was a lecturer at the Tokyo College of Photography then. In my remembrance, he was a handsome boy with mature skills who could produce photos with sophisticated composition.

Back then, Risaku Suzuki, now a representative figure of photography in Japan, was also one of my students. Almond took a portrait of young Suzuki, which is also included in this book. Looking at that picture, recalling Almond being a presentable fellow with unskillful Japanese, has really evoked reminiscence to the past.

Upon graduation from the Tokyo College of Photography, Almond returned to Hong Kong to set up his studio, and became more involved as a photographer.
During my visits to Hong Kong in the 1990s, his workload escalated every time I met him; I could tell that his work was going better. And as one of the representative figures in Hong Kong photography circle nowadays, he spared no efforts in guiding newcomers in the field. As someone who had witnessed him embarked on his journey, I sincerely hope that he will be successful as he progresses along his pathway.

Almond always injects his own spirit into his portrait works; this is what I like about him. Not only to him, shooting portraits remains a challenge of techniques to many photographers, right? This is because human being has many mysteries. When a subject with an enigmatic charisma turns up, a photographer will have to utilize his own way of interpretation to present that quality. Because of this, photographers, at all times and places, take portraits as a mirror reflective of their own images, and by that, aren't they projecting their worldview?

From the portraits collected in this book, it can be seen that Almond has utilized a variety of techniques. I completely understand why he would attempt such a difficult theme. During the mid-1980s to 1990s, his basic style was composed of a 6x6 square format with monotone human figure. No matter how you interpret them, those works were hardly anything more than the subjects’ forms, just like a style formed from practicing abstract painting. From the late 90s to 2000, a massive change occurred and color usage became much richer.
The color photographs appeared; together with adopting the method of close-up, works as compelling as the portrait of poet Bei Dao were generated. Moreover, the portraits’ shooting were not restrained in studio anymore but also took place outdoor. Those were experiences that Almond accumulated as a photographer. So, please continue to utilize them in portraits!

But something remains unchanged. From his works, it can be felt that he has a kind and gentle personality. He delicately captured the qi of the subjects who were in front of his camera, and then injected it into their postures. Almond is an honest photographer; you can tell after you saw his works. His works also possess an intrinsic classical style. Over time, he had retained various styles of people who actively appeared in Hong Kong cultural and art scenes during 1990s to 2000s. Those works will definitely make significant information.

No matter what, Almond will continue to shoot portraits, right? I will be looking forward to his achievement of a greater result.