Moving images

Art & Culture | Crystal Wu 15 Oct 2021

When it comes to enjoying the sights of Hong Kong Island, the tram - affectionately known as ding ding because of its distinctive bell - is the way to go. Serving the Hong Kong community since 1904, Hong Kong Tramways celebrates its 117th anniversary this year and recently received the Guinness World Record for being "the largest double-decker tram fleet in service."

In celebration of these milestones, it is collaborating with Leica Camera with the exhibition RecorDING Every Moment, which showcases 15 images by three local photographers, Lam Hiu-man, Colin Lau and Edas Wong.

Lam went out to photograph on a rainy evening "when tramcars and pedestrians rushed about like flowing water amid towering skyscrapers and neon lights."

One of her works features an old-fashioned, engraved stop sign at the end of a tram station and a tram. The still station with its sign creates an interesting juxtaposition with the moving tram.

Another work uses the puddles found often in the summers of Hong Kong, creating a realistic reflection of a day-to-day scene. However, with the photo reversed and the reflection placed on the upper half of the image, audiences are urged to take a moment to think about which part of the photo is real.

"Whether it's inside the tram or outside, it's all part of the urban landscape of Hong Kong," said Lam. "The ding ding never stops, the wheels keep turning with the times and moving forward, rain or shine."

She also highlights the daily operations in the tram depot, showing the team behind the iconic green trains, as well as the daily work needed in maintaining its smooth running.

Said Lam: "The ding ding has been in operation for over a century, thanks to the dedication of the staff at the Whitty Street Tram Depot, who continue to guide the tramcars on the tracks under the lights, turning them into the lanterns of the city."

Lau also went on a visit to the tram depot, but he focused on the heritage of the tram. The timing of his photos coincided with the showing of local film I Still Remember, which starts with a scene of the tram in the city.

His works also look at the history and its contrast with the world that we are living in.

Lau said: "In one of his short stories, Liu Yichang describes the tram as having an energetic spirit that carries passengers on its shoulders into the exhibition hall of life, allowing them to appreciate daily scenes from the streets. The piece ends by saying that the tramcar's body is strong and will continue on for many tomorrows."

Instead of looking at the history and stories behind the tram, Edas Wong approached the subject with the happy memories that people share on the trams, even in the midst of the pandemic. "Laughter cannot be covered by masks," said Wong.

Through his lens, we can see the joy in the most mundane of settings - whether it was joking with classmates, telling a parent about your day after school, or touring around the city with family at the weekend.

Wong shows that happiness can stem from the simplest moments in life, and how the trams have and will continue to accompany generations of Hong Kong people.

"We've all grown up with the ding ding being a part of our lives and part of the city," said Nixon Cheung, head of commercial and brand at Hong Kong Tramways.

"The images capture both the work of our dedicated staff as well as the happiness of all the passengers we've served. Through the camera lens and its interplay with light and shadows, we've together witnessed every smile that drives our mobile landmark to break the world record for Hong Kong!"

RecorDING Every Moment will run at Leica's Causeway Bay store until November 4.

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