Manifesto on series - Super-Urban


      The series' inspiration came mainly from Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms illustrations and the series of Watchmen comic books from Vertigo Comics. The aim of this series is to juxtapose and mock, or in my reality correctly represent the current photographic trends in Hong Kong's global luxury-brand advertisements of a morally incorrect American Dream set in a novel setting and enforced on an extremely mentally sensitive Youth, such as the one in Hong Kong.


                                                            Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell's heart-warming illustrated portrayals of the American Life and Dream gave way to the effects used in the works. The effects give us the choice to believe them as 'real photographs' (photos without retouch, where photographer is the only intervention between moment and mass audience; unlike commercial photography targeted at a particular audience) which one is reluctant to do because of the effects; or simply as artistic creations, artworks. But the initial impressions of these photographs are the most important. Although we are given a choice in how to perceive these photographs, the initial perception of them tend to be the disbelief in their reality or authenticity; because of the effects, one sees them first as hyper-realistic illustrations, similar to Chuck Close's use of strong contrasting outlines and detailing; and only when one consciously chooses to believe they are photographs and not artworks that they turn into one. They are transformed in the viewer's mind, therefore, into an assurance of the photographs' authenticity; and only then can one truly evaluate one's attraction to them.


I used compositions similar to ones used in Watchmen comics to give the pieces a more fictional outlook, to create an impression of fantasy, of a parallel universe, just like the one in the comics. The palette used in Watchmen are mainly black, blue and yellow; and since I am a red green colour-blind artist, I can only distinguish the differences between those mentioned, hence the hyper-saturation of the ones used in the series. The works portray the often fantasised, but to many, unattainable hipster-hero lifestyle; to acknowledge the subconscious plight of being on the ball with lifestyle trends in the consistently progressive speed of living in Hong Kong. The lifestyle is very subtly suggesting to the viewer, one's incompetence of being able to live a 'full' life, at the same time out of curiosity and assisted imagination, inspiring them to seek adventure, even in as small an island as Hong Kong Island (All photos were therefore taken on and only on Hong Kong Island). A 'full' life, in my opinion, to most is to choose to live fearlessly, to act spontaneously on one's will and to accept the past as it truly and authentically is and was to oneself.


                                                            'The Billboard Life'

As the Hong Kong society had been brainwashed by multi-national luxury brands with their beautifully composed shots of alternative lifestyle, residents have little headspace to escape from the fundamentally false propaganda of billboard life. The life shown in the series is similar to mine in some respects, and reflects a few facets of my personal life as I too am struggling with this plight despite my occupation as an artist and evangelist of mindfulness and the human spirit. And I do not excuse myself from being apart from the viewer and would like to take this opportunity and clarify I am simply an observer with a scientific apparel(the camera) or a handy tool; therefore, one can imagine the subliminal powers of marketing, even on the conscious level that I understand the world in.

                              'Subconscious influences and Conscious Choice

One consciously chooses to make fun daily for the most part instead of to decay in misery, but conscious choice requires more than mere cognition. It takes mental sustainability. And this sustainability comes from a yearning for the mystery of life.  The photos intend to relay a batch of curious feelings to the viewer, whatever feelings one may choose to feel through my use of colour and theme; but most importantly they all suggest that the subjects are substantially interesting in personality and therefore require and deserve more time, patience, and tolerance to look at and to attempt to understand than the average human being (because they are in an aesthetically composed photograph); which is also to the credit of the illustration effects. The subjects are portrayed with a relaxed atmosphere - a mystery in the city, which is suggested by the alternative dress codes and the distracting but as equally mysterious activities and locales. As a result, the viewer tends to accept whatever lifestyles these 'characters' might have; even if it means defying their personal morals or religious standing in life, simply for the fact that these photographs are good to look at.


                                                            On Choosing Models

The models were selected with the importance of interest in mind, not race. And as I believe there is still an inferiority complex in most Hong Kong residents as a lingering result of colonialism- they strive to live a life not of spiritual discovery but of the trail that the luxurious cultures left behind, of money. It feels ironic how many expatriates can enjoy the city more than its native, local inhabitants. And I used mainly caucasian models to reinforce the idea that in Hong Kong, still, exclusivity of pleasure takes precedence over the acceptance of serenity which is often mistaken as mundanity, as many of these activities and dress codes require a flexible timetable in one's line of work to have enough time and energy to chase after perfectly, what are known to most as trends, but are actually codes of being.

                                                      On Choosing Locations

The locations are intended to confuse viewers; even though one realises they are taken in Hong Kong, one cannot instantly point out the venue, offering the public a new subliminal visual and mental perspective on the possible idealistic scenes of life in Hong Kong. The traditional ideals refer to the unimaginative goals of finishing university and finding a well paid career in the profiting fields of finance, medicine and law. Many students in pursuit of these ideals lack hedonism, creativity and hence personality; which in turn has transformed their minds over time into a machine and nothing more. Without accusations on my part, and ironically and unconsciously with it on their part, they bring little influence to society, creating a lack of social responsibility amongst a superficially progressive society that crucially needs ideological change; reinforcing the pattern without forming a personal opinion; creating a bigger gap between the progress of the city and of its residents because of the lack of creativity and imagination in their will. 

Thank you for reading and thinking. 

- Ernest