Location: Yew Chung International School, Kowloon Tong
Type of event: Photography exhibition
Next time you go on the Kwun Tong subway line, hop off at Kowloon Tong station and spend a few minutes at Joel Odesser’s solo exhibition at the Art Gallery of Yew Chung International School. I attended the opening party several weeks ago – I met Joel, stepped through his works and had a delightful time.
|"Behind the Scenes" by Joel Odesser
Joel is a self-taught photographer. Both his father and grandfather take pictures for a living and so there is a plenty of photography in his blood. Having grown up in the “countryside” in France (Annecy, to be precise), Joel has always been fascinated by big metropolises. Now based in Hong Kong, Joel is both personally and artistically drawn to the density of people and the breakneck pace here. But instead of photographing our breathtaking skyline and soaring skyscrapers, the Frenchman focuses on the mundane and turns it into something captivating.
Titled “Behind the Scenes,” Joel’s sophomore solo exhibition showcases ten images of Central and Sheung Wan. They are pictures of back alleys and stairs, of men carrying wicker baskets and women pushing a dolly, of a brooding canopy of red-white-and-blue and a broken umbrella lodged between buildings. These images exude a quiet confidence and comprise of interesting details -- if the viewer is willing to spend the time to look for them.
|One of the 10 images from "Behind the Scenes"
Also presented at the exhibition are six images from his previously shown “Lives and Lights” collection. There, he uses long exposures to capture Hong Kong’s vitality. Each frame is a dual-image patchwork that lays bare the city’s many contradictions: alienation and warmth, oppression and intimacy.
Joel does not fuss with equipment, which is one of the reasons why I enjoy his works. He shoots with a basic digital SLR and an 18-250mm all-purpose lens. He dispenses with special filters and complicated lighting setups. And why not? A good photographer is one who sees with his own eyes and uses the camera only as an aid, and not the other way around. Joel is a good photographer – he sees our city from a unique angle and compels us to do the same.
|One of the 6 images from "Lives and Lights"
“Behind the Scenes” is a modest, unassuming body of works that shows rather than tell, asks questions but does not condescend. One of these questions is about the tension between urban development and preservation, and between our standard of living and our quality of life. In Hong Kong, these elements tend to be mutually exclusive – even though they don’t have to be. That’s the message I took away from the exhibition.
“Behind the Scenes” is on until 11 October. For gallery hours and other details, visit the exhibition's Facebook page.