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May 2021   |   Volume 22 No. 2

Hong Kong History in Pictures

First to march through the Cross Harbour Tunnel was the Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas, led by Major H.C.R. Bently, performing at the tunnel opening on August 2, 1972.
(Caption courtesy of FormAsia Books)
A rare collection of photos chronicling Hong Kong modern history since the 1860s has been acquired by HKU Libraries, which has put on display an initial exhibition of highlights from this visual treasure trove.

The collection of more than 24,000 images, was amassed by Frank Fischbeck who first came to Hong Kong in the 1970s as a photojournalist for LIFE magazine. In this capacity, and later as Managing Director of FormAsia Books he began taking photos documenting daily life and important moments in the city’s recent history. Along with his own pictures he collected historical photos dating from the 1860s to the 1960s, which reveal Hong Kong as it evolved into a major international city.

Of his own images, Mr Fischbeck said: “Images associated with politics are the hardest ones to capture. Experience taught me to dress appropriately for the occasion. I had to place myself in the shoes of the attendees, that I don’t stand out as a journalist or photographer but blend into the audience and that I am, as far as possible, unobtrusive.”

HKU Libraries will store, preserve, catalogue, digitise and maintain the collection. An initial exhibition, entitled Hong Kong Historical Photos from the Frank Fischbeck Collection, reveals some of the treasures contained in the collection, and presents an exciting visual account of modern Hong Kong history.

Frank Fischbeck’s picks

Frank Fischbeck Collection

“The Luk Yu Teahouse in Central is a Hong Kong institution and long favoured by locals and visitors to the city. It still retains its atmosphere of old-world dignity with polished wood panels and dented teapots, but these days there are no more spittoons,” said Mr Fischbeck.

Frank Fischbeck Collection

“Gems of vernacular architecture can still be found in the New Territories. Saved from extinction by their seclusion and inaccessibility, their very neglect has proven to be their salvation.” Mr Fischbeck spent a lot of time documenting the fast disappearing villages of the New Territories.

Selected historical pictures

Frank Fischbeck Collection

The Qing court was still in power in September 1909 when Governor Lugard posed on the steps of Government House with members of the Legislative Council and with the royal visitor from Peking, Prince Tsai Hsun. On Lugard’s left is Yuan Shu-hsun, Viceroy of Canton.
(Caption courtesy of FormAsia Books)

Frank Fischbeck Collection

Even at the end of the 19th century, it was not uncommon to see carts pulled through the streets of urban Hong Kong by bullocks when farmers brought their produce to market.
(Caption courtesy of FormAsia Books)

Frank Fischbeck Collection

This striking photograph, taken from the tailgunner position at an altitude of several hundred feet, shows a loose formation of five US Army Air Force bombers on a raid over the Hong Kong Whampoa Docks. The Kowloon Peninsula and the north shore of Hong Kong Island are all in full view.
(Caption courtesy of FormAsia Books)

Frank Fischbeck Collection

A classic image marking the end of the Japanese occupation: the Japanese Gestapo Chief, Colonel Kanazawa, head of their Gendarmerie, is arrested at the entrance of the Peninsula Hotel on September 29, 1945. British Marines with weapons provocatively poised keep a watchful eye on the Colonel, with arms folded and still wearing his samurai sword, and his aides.
(Caption courtesy of FormAsia Books)

The Frank Fischbeck Collection is owned by HKU Libraries.

Visit the virtual exhibition here.

I had to place myself in the shoes of the attendees, that I don’t stand out as a journalist or photographer but blend into the audience and that I am, as far as possible, unobtrusive.

Portrait

MR FRANK FISCHBECK

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