Writings/ Photographs/ Poetry/ Archives
A Holly Lee and Lee Ka-sing online magazine. Published on Fridays.
A Distant Memory of Christmas
Poem by Holly Lee
woke up this morning
couldn’t hear sleigh bells
nor resounding joys
the exit of a lockdown year
the bright, bland snow
an grey eye eagle
flying, hanging or plunging headfirst
into our arms
thus enters the Queen
(how everybody loves her)
in royal deep purple
speaking from the flat screen
a voice so warm
they’re expecting my queen
I gave them
would be in another museum
worrying about her destiny
she has every reason to
“What’s tonight for dinner?”
a deep purple Mexican aubergine
a yellow spaghetti squash
(also from Mexico)
a jagged Jamaican sweet potato
a PC Easy-carve turkey breast roast
two Ontario white potatoes
Bengali samosas, or is it somosa, or sumo…
our border-crossing family dinner
in a mostly empty
business-stranded, paralyzed home
still a blessing
in a stay apart world
our daughter + cat
do not require distancing…
December 25, 2020
(The first batch of Galerie fiber-based paper) Galerie fiber-based paper was first launched in Hong Kong in 1988, we received a box of 8x10 sampler. I trimmed the whole box of paper to postcard size (4x6), had a plan to turn them all into original photographic postcards. At that time I could still remember, two decades ago, paper companies such as Agfa and Kodak still offering photographic papers in postcard size, these papers even had all the postcard details printed on verso as watermarks, lines for address and a divider in the middle to separate the writing area.
In this series I have a selection of seven images, most were snap-shots from journeys, my assistant helped me for all the lab work. This image was taken in Rome, in our trip to Italy in 1988.
(Tail of a horse) Another image from the original photographic postcard suite, also from Rome. In the eighties, I wrote a column for Sing Tao Weekly Magazine, in which published one or a pair of images each week, accompanied by a short piece of writing. This horse tail photograph was first published in that column. In the article, I wrote about options of seeing a horse, on photography about seeing and reading. I put it in a lighthearted way.
We did not follow up much on this original photographic paper postcards project, photographs were kept, and became curled inside a box for over thirty years. Not until recently, I had a chance to take them out, soaped all in water overnight, dried and flattened them under heavy weights one more time.
(Travel with a Bitter Melon) This is the title of a poem by Ping-kwan. He used this same title for a book, a bilingual collection of his poems (1973-98) published by Asia 2000. I designed the book cover, as well as a bunch of images as sub-dividers for the inside pages. This bitter melon photograph was shot for the cover. In 1999, in a trip to Tokyo, I carried with me this bitter melon card and sent over to Holly, at that time our family had already moved to Toronto. The bitter melon postcard was one among a series of cards I published in the same year for promotional purpose.
(Heavenly Temple) 1992 I was in Beijing, at the Heavenly Temple for a photography assignment, all shots were taken in large format. I used one of the 4x5 testing Polaroids as postcard, mailing it to Holly as a usual practice when she's not by my side. Our first trip to Beijing was in 1981, I told her in the postcard that the stone fence at the Tiananmen Square we saw was not there anymore.
(Xingjiang) In 1987, a group of Hong Kong artists, writers, musicians was invited for a cultural exchange trip to Xingjiang, I was in that group. From Xingjiang, I wrote Holly several postcards, including this hand-made piece, trimmed cardboard from a package box. To me, anything that cut into the format of 4x6 inches can be served as a postcard. Of course, somebody might push this even further. I read from a magazine that someone sent out a coconut by postal, a bunch of stamps was glued directly on the shell. I told Holly in the postcard, one night the group was invited to stay at the Mongolian-style camps high up in the pasture plateau. Over the top, the wide open starry sky suddenly reminded me the sky of Guangzhou, when I lived there as a young boy.
(Boy) I released a set of two-colour postcards in 1983, mainly making use of old family photographs as key images. They were set in fat-bit screen, on top, overlapped with stanzas from my poems. This photograph was taken at a garden in Guangzhou. I was picking flowers, three years old then, shortly arrived from Hong Kong to stay with my uncle, my father’s elder brother. On the postcard, are the first five lines of a poem titled “Chronology” I wrote in 1975. Katheryn Potterf and Anthony Thai translated this poem into English and published it on West Coast Line, an American publication which dedicated the entire issue for a special feature on Hong Kong's literal and visual art in the late nineties.
(Father) My father was holding a movie camera. In the first line of the poem I wrote, “My father is a photographer”. The poem was in fact talking about family conflict and the generation gap. In 1998, In the book “A Collection of Poems from Ten” 十人詩選, I included this poem among my selection, but I published only the first stanza and added a small note: “The original poem was lost, this is a fragment reprinted from a postcard published by Camera Works in 1983”. Sometimes, when people get older, they tend to revise their early work, try to make it more diluted, or even sharper.
(Found poem) Just two days ago when I was flipping through my postcard collection albums, I found this poem, which was written in 1983. It was a draft, hand-written on the back of a postcard, and never surfaced after thirty-seven years. I am not surprise, the first ten years of poetry writing I treasured in the old days are still well-kept, but they were too green in many ways. If keeping is just for the sake of memories, I have thought of, turning them into a piece of cubical papier-mâché.
In the eighties we moved into photography, I wrote occasionally, most of the poems were not properly kept, some of them scattered among notebooks, others in agenda calendars and this one was written on the back of a postcard.
(The self portrait by error) “I deliberately dodged all the rules”, Man Ray discovered his Rayograph solarization by mistake, somehow, machine can also trigger a creative result by error. This postcard was printed on a silver metallic card stock, in offset process with a print-run approximately 500 counts. On the verso side of the card, it titled as “Self-portrait, Holly and Wingo, 1980”. Look at this card, the front is blank, in medium gross silver but metallic. In a rare chance, the printing impression was skipped, out of the 500 print-runs, hence the reason it was blank. The 'missed out image' was an image of more journalistic look, with the shadow of me and Holly casting on the foreground, a snap shot taken with Minox. The printing error turned my early-days into conceptual.
(Strawberries) I have a pair of air-blow, plastic strawberries, in red colour, each in diameter approximately twenty inches. I pressed them underneath a piece of thick glass and took a black and white photograph. This card was printed with only one spot colour - in red.
(DESIGN EXCHANGE) Summer I990, me and Holly were in New York. I got a message from Wang Xu, a Chinese designer working in Hong Kong, for an assignment to create a cover image for the coming issue of DESIGN EXCHANGE, an issue on overseas Chinese graphic designers. I worked with this magazine constantly, and my role of photography was rather free-hand, which meant, what I contributed had to include the concept as well. This cover was photographed in my basement studio in New York. Among the props, the Tung Sing 通勝 (a Chinese divination guide and almanac) was purchased in Chinatown. Duchamp’s Discs Spiral was a replica set I bought in the Museum of Modern Art. I shot on 4x5 transparency with Sinar, the cover photograph was set in a limbo background.
This postcard somehow, was an extension of the assignment picture, a mixed media collage for myself. On the testing Polaroid, I used red and yellow masking-tapes to mask out the background. Next, I mailed the card to my postal box in Hong Kong.
(A suitcase of imagination) This was a promotional postcard I created in the early nineties, printed on double weight fiber-based photographic paper. Only dozens copies were made, all sent to art-directors of advertising agencies. After all, I am not sure who’s wise enough to still keeping a copy of it. The early postcards produced in the industry are real photographs, I have a bunch of good ones in my collection.
A Holly Lee and Lee Ka-sing online magazine. Published on Fridays.
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Holly and Ka-sing currently live in Toronto with their daughter Iris, and their cat Sukimoto.