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New Chinese Art: Duncan Wong and EyesCoffee.com

Duncan Wong is an independent photographer and publisher of the online black and white photography magazine, EyesCoffee.com. The first time I saw Duncan’s travel photography, I felt I was looking at a traditional Chinese painting style … though of course I was looking at modern subjects rendered via a camera and lens, rather than with ink and paper, and though Duncan himself isn’t so sure about this interpretation…. We struck up an e-mail conversation and made plans to meet with our wives for lunch or tea in Hong Kong earlier this month [April 2003]. With my trip being canceled due to SARS, however, Duncan and I had to conduct our interview by e-mail. Here is the transcription:


The Chinese Outpost: Have you lived in Hong Kong all your life?

Duncan Wong: Born and grow up in Hong Kong, always stationed in Hong Kong although I will travel on business trip or holiday.

TCO: How did you become interested in photography?

DW: Not sure. After graduating from University, just buying my first camera Nikon F801, which is an electronic SLR (Single Lens Reflection) with AF (Auto Focus). The purpose is simple, only for taking graduation photos with my family, friends, etc. Then my interest in photography built up gradually. And then shifting from colour to black/white photography.

TCO: What kind of photographic training or study have you taken?

DW: Not formal. Only 1 short course (8 lessons), ‘Alternative Photography’ in Hong Kong Art Center around 1993, by Wing Shya (http://www.wingshya.com/), who is a Hong Kong based designer / photographer, involving in a lot of Wong Kar Wai’s films. The course is impacting me a lot until now, and I started to think and treat photography in a very different way.

TCO: Do you work in any other visual mediums (painting, sculpture, etc.)?

DW: Quite a lot in the past. Only photography, Chinese Ink painting, installation and video last longer, comparatively. Photography is the longest one.

TCO: Is photography part of your “day job”?

DW: No. Full time job working in IT department of an international bank.

TCO: On your “About” page, you note that “Human perception is interesting.”What comment or observation about human perception do you feel your art attempts to make?

DW: Sometimes chaotic like dreams, no matter how organized we are. Image / Media will work out in some ways we do not expect in the beginning.

TCO: The photos you present on your web site have been taken in many places around the world. Are you a photographer who travels, or a traveler who photographs?

DW: Recently, I also think of the same kind of question. I think, I like to travel no matter I take photo or not. I also like to take photo no matter I am traveling or not. So ?

TCO: What place in the world would you most like to visit and photograph next?

DW: Most like to visit, it may be Nepal and Israel. Hope that my next destination would be Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

TCO: Which photograph on your site is your favorite? Why?

DW: The one with deepest impression is Dream@Water. It is about a repeated dream of our childhood, where the scene is my home.

TCO: Who or what has been the greatest influence on your artistic style?

TCO: Do the works of any other photographers or artists especially inspire you? If so, who are they?

DW: Both are difficult questions. If I mention some master photographers, which may imply I have achieved something, with works being resemble to their works. But I really admit their work, and strive to learn from them :- Joel Peter Witkin- Robert Frank- Wing Shya (teaching the alternative photography course as mentioned above)

TCO: Certain painting styles can be described as “Chinese”. Do you feel there is anything uniquely Chinese in your photographic style?

DW: If not to see things from surface level, like Red Lantern is Chinese style, etc, ‘Chinese Style’ may be rather from the inner level. But, I do not think strong Chinese Style in my photography. Except I have a passion of mountains and clouds that is commonly presented as landscape in Chinese Ink Painting, since I practiced Chinese Painting quote long ago. Such passion may be common in traditional Chinese Artists. See more details - http://www.eyescoffee.com/tibet/tib001.htm. I suspect that my love on black/white photography originated from Chinese Ink Painting, because the latter is in black/white too.

TCO: What is your goal in sharing your photographs on eyescoffee.com? What impression do you want to make on your site’s visitors?

DW: In the past, on and off, I think of publishing a photo book of my works, but there is a lot of physical limitations, etc. In using Internet, now I realize that my website EyesCoffee.com (http://www.eyescoffee.com) is like my photo exhibition gallery or photography book, for everyone with internet access. By sharing images, I hope to share with others for my thought, my life, and my religion. I am a Christian.

TCO: What is your philosophy of photography, or of art? Why do we need visual art?

DW: To discover and know more about our world, and through this process, know more about ourselves, both viewer and artist. I mean the inner part of our heart and mind. Black/white photo helps us a lot to discover another world from the ordinary world, which we are not aware.


You can visit Duncan’s online photo magazine at http://www.eyescoffee.com/. We recommend starting with the features listed under “Reality” on the site’s home page.

Special thanks again to Duncan for this exclusive Chinese Outpost interview.

April 2003

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