TRANS ASIA PHOTOGRAPHY | Surface Tension: Hong Kong Photographs in Wei Leng Tay’s Abridge Project

Olivier Krischer, Trans Asia Photography , February 26, 2020

In 2018, Wei Leng Tay began a new project and returned to Hong Kong to start the familiar process of interviewing the subjects she proposed to video and photograph, this time working more with an older generation of southern Chinese migrants, many of whom had swum or hiked illegally, in the 1950s and 1960s, to the quasi-mythical safe haven of the British colony. On the same trip, she took video of her bus trip along the newly completed Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge, the world’s longest sea bridge, a 55-km-long stilted highway. Tay was interested in the intersection of these migrant histories with a huge infrastructural construction that seemed to formalize the contentious political, economic, and social integration of Hong Kong to Mainland China.


During a follow-up trip, in 2019, the Hong Kong protests, opposing a proposed extradition bill to Mainland China, intensified. Tay felt uneasy about recording the faces of her informants, many of whom told tales of escaping hardship, uncertainty, even persecution in Maoist China, memories that were also increasingly woven into the conflict unfolding on the streets. Her sensitivity to the role of images was heightened amid the massive circulation of protest photographs and videos, which sought to define the public understanding of the frontline.