Award-winning AP photojournalist Vincent Yu's exhibition 'Nine Lives' opens this Friday at Anita Chan Lai-ling Gallery - Fringe Club in Hong Kong. The exhibit features work from his newly-published “Hong Kong/China Photographers Nine” - a photo book with images from nine important news assignments taken by Yu over his years with the Associated Press.
Yu's career in news and documentary photography has spanned over three decades during which he has covered some of the most important and historic news events across the Asia-Pacific region. The temperament communicated through Yu’s imageries provides a stark contrast to the economic transformation many of these places have undergone. Armed with objective and subjective awareness, Yu’s works extend beyond symbolism and cover illustrative aspects of this photography genre. Yu’s latest “Hong Kong/China Photographers Nine” is the ninth-part of a photo book series published by Hong Kong-based Asia One Books that feature works of Hong Kong’s most esteemed photographers of different genres.
Below, Yu selected nine images featured in the exhibition and book and explains the stories behind each photograph.
Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un
Vincent Yu: "Every foreign journalist is assigned a minder during their entire stay for “protection”.
On the day of the parade, we arrived at the scene a couple of hours early. I had no idea Kim Jong-en was going to be there until my minder, with some prompting and persuasion, reluctantly confirmed that the young Kim would accompany his father, Kim Jong-il to the event. Before this, the only impression the world had of Kim was from a black and white photograph of him at 7-years-old. I realized immediately that the image of the two Kims together would be much more important than the parade itself.
From a visual point of view, it is usually not desirable to have two people standing so far away from each other. However, because father Kim was glancing at his son, the space between them became meaningful by creating an impression of the relationship between the two men."
Chinese policeman and a fire extinguisher
Vincent Yu: "I took this bizarre image of a military police officer standing guard in front of a fire extinguisher during the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in 2012. The party congress takes place every five years and is considered to be the most important political events of the country.
It was not clear why an officer was guarding the fire extinguisher in this instance. However, there had been a number of cases where protesters have tried to set themselves on fire near Tiananmen in Beijing."
Red balloons in Hong Kong
Vincent Yu: "This shot was taken during Hong Kong’s celebration of an anniversary of its handover from Britain to Chinese rule. The event took place outside the city’s legislature building, where a little red Hong Kong flag was planted on the roof. Traditionally, red stands for fortune and prosperity among Chinese people. It is also the color associated with communism. There are a number of elements in this image that sought to symbolize the dichotomy that Hong Kong’s socio-political landscape often represents. Would you like to have a go at spotting them?"
Statue before an unveiling in North Korea
Vincent Yu: "I took this shot on the day the unveiling ceremony of the giant Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang. It was, however, not taken during the ceremony but instead, during a brief stop while the media bus was on the way. We were under strict order not to take photos but the image was too powerful to resist. I switched my camera to “silent mode” and clicked the shutter twice. It is the only image I have seen anywhere from this angle. The side profile highlights the size of the statue and Kim’s posture much more than the front shot that we were invited to shoot later on."
Vincent Yu: "I was in Vladivostok to cover the annual APEC summit in 2012. It was a luxury to have been assigned two days to shoot a feature story. What made me stop to observe this seemingly ordinary spot were the various prohibitive signs and warning posts all around. I waited for about 15 minutes for a person to walk past. For me, the shot represents authoritarianism which continues to be prevalent in many countries around the world."
Red bands wave in Thailand
Vincent Yu: "On and off, I spent around two months in Bangkok during an anti-government protest led by grass root “red shirt” protesters, who occupied the main but very compact commercial center of the city. It was not always easy to be “creative” in situations like this as, on a daily basis, there are few breakthroughs in the ongoing stalemate. When I took this shot, I was struck by the contrast between the high-end shop front and the values the “red shirts” stood for. Visually, it is particularly powerful because of the movement created by the red cloth."
A Pakistani man sits on a dinosaur
Vincent Yu: "The floods in 2010 in Pakistan was considered one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the country’s history. We were in the car when I spotted this dinosaur from far away. The sight was too strange for me not to hunt it down. To this day, I have no idea how it got to be there and where it belonged. I just found it in the middle of a wreckage where everything around it had been flattened and wiped out."
Vincent Yu: "For this assignment, I made some 30 visits to different McDonald’s that operate round the clock in Hong Kong. I had been to this particular branch twice and both times, I saw this man sitting at the exact same spot in an exact same position. He was sitting but asleep, with his belongings by his side. It dawned on me that he, with many others, chose to make McDonald’s their “home” because the dwellings they could afford could not even match the comfort of a fast-food chain."
Vincent Yu: "This image was among a sea of photographs that were on display at a school hall following Japan’s 311 earthquake and tsunami in 2011. The school was set up by local authorities as a place for the disaster victims to reclaim objects of memories. Among the items neatly arranged in the hall were certificates, medals, scrapbooks and the likes. I was struck and deeply touched by the value and importance the national as a whole attaches to personal memories."
Above, Hong Kong/China Photographers Nine”, a photo book comprising images from nine different news assignments undertaken by Vincent Yu over the years as a news photographer work for the Associated Press, is seen. Visit Asia One Books for more.
Visual artist and Digital Storyteller at The Associated Press