Shooting the ‘Sky’

Iizawa Kotaro, Photography Critic

I met Almond Chu in the 1980s. He came from Hong Kong and was an
international student at the Tokyo College of Photography, Japan. Thirty
years passed, he has already become one of the representative
photographers in Hong Kong.

‘Sky’ is a set of new works by Almond. In November 2018, we were reunited
in Hong Kong. And when I saw this series of works, I naturally spit out a
sentence from my mouth, ‘You are grown-up.’ In my memory, Almond was a
young photographer who was yet to be skillful and liked to take black and
white portraits. He has since accumulated a variety of experiences and has
become an artist who produces tremendous and meaningful works. The ‘Sky’
series feels like Almond’s process of growth.

Many photographers use the sky as a theme. If you look at the history of
photography, you will quickly think of Alfred Stieglitz’s ‘Equivalents’, Araki
Nobuyoshi’s ‘From Close Range’ and many other works. But Almond’s series
is different from anyone else’s – his works are so minimal that expresses
directly without any extra elements, probably not yet.

Severe air pollution was one of Almond’s motivations starting this series. In a
city like Hong Kong, it has become more and more difficult to see a pure blue
sky in recent years. But apart from this, his focus was to take photos of space
without anything. Japanese people are familiar with a Buddhist concept that
there is no real thing; everything is just ‘empty’ (śūnya). The ‘Sky’ series can
be regarded as a symbol of that. It looks like there is nothing in Almond’s
photos, but in fact, it is not the case. They contain light and darkness,
tangible and intangible substances, time and space in the universe.

However, it is unnecessary to regard the ‘Sky’ series as an answer to this
philosophical question. The tone and the subtle gradation of light and shadow
make these vertical photos beautiful and fascinating. There is more than one
explanation for this series. On the contrary, it is not good if the audience only
interprets the ideas projected by their memories.