Hong Kong As It Was, Hedda Morrison’s Photographs 1946 – 47
Commentary: Dr Raymond Lum, Curator of Photographs, Harvard-Yenching Library
Hedda Morrison and Edward Stokes never met, but their separate and individual visions of Hong Kong come together in this book – more than half a century after Hedda Morrison photographed Hong Kong in 1946 – 47. How Edward Stokes came upon Hedda Morrison’s images, how he pursued access to them, how he identified and researched them, and how he enticed me into working with him: all this is told by him in the book. We should but be grateful for his determination, his dedication, and his scholarship.
Without the identification or interpretation of the photographs in this book, as provided by Edward Stokes, few of us would have a clear understanding of what we are looking at. Nor would we have any idea why we should care, why these photographs are important, why – and how – they should be appreciated as vital historical records as well as art.
Pacific Affairs, Winter 2006 – 2007
In 1995 Edward Stokes, a photographer of distinction, saw Hedda Morrison’s photos in a 1946 Hong Kong government report, but there was little trace of her Hong Kong work. He finally tracked down her negatives, and this splendid record of a world we have lost was lovingly produced.
Hedda Morrison’s Hong Kong can be considered a book of great distinction. It is a sensitively produced record and ethnographic interpretation of a Chinese place with global significance, captured at a time that few remember. No one except Hedda Morrison had the time, the skills, and the facility to make permanent the memory of a time and a place that no longer exist. Edward Stokes has done a masterly job of allowing us to journey back.
Asian Art News, 2006
The story of how Edward Stokes unearthed, and then documented, over 500 extraordinary negatives, still in pristine condition, taken in Hong Kong in 1946 – 47, is told in this lavishly produced book. However, that story is merely engrossing background to the real story which is told beautifully by the photographs themselves. Hedda Morrison’s photographs document, as never before, a lifestyle largely unchanged from the 1930s to the 1950s.
South China Morning Post, 2005
When the documentary photographer Hedda Morrison arrived in Hong Kong in September 1946, the colony was poised at a pivotal moment in its history. Yet, but for an unlikely twist of fate some fifty years later, when Hedda Morrison’s Hong Kong photographs of the period were sighted by Edward Stokes, arguably the best photographic record of the times would still be locked away in Harvard-Yenching Library, effectively lost to posterity.
Morrison spent six months in Hong Kong, photographing people, streets, fishing life, rural outposts and landscapes. That she did so at a critical historical moment makes her record a unique time capsule.
The photographs in Hedda Morrison’s Hong Kong, taken in the autumn of 1946 and the spring of 1947, show Hong Kong recovering from the ravages of war, yet facing the future with determined optimism. The physical surroundings had changed little from decades earlier.
Morrison’s photographs are the work of a masterful, artistic photographer, yet until 2005 her images of Hong Kong were unknown. That year, after a long, serendipitous search by Edward Stokes, her images were published in this book. The photographs provide a comprehensive record of a place changed irrevocably by time.