Memories are like rocks on the shore, their rough edges smoothed against the waves of time.
Viewing Kenneth Tong‘s photography is like looking directly at the past. Everything is natural and familiar. Nothing is posed. His shots are like a palette where he patiently mixes the colors of life. “My work embodies distant memories, so hazy and afar in the past that it’s hard to revisit in its entirety,” he says.
Though Tong has never received formal training for photography, he’s always been a visual person, and discovering photography has helped him break out of his shell. “I’m an introvert so I always kept my feelings to myself,” he says. “Ever since I got my first camera, photography has been my main form of self-expression. It’s allowed me to harness my creativity and construct a universe without boundaries.”
In his photography, Tong presents an untroubled world. The washed-out colors of his images aren’t tinged with melancholy, carrying instead a sense of tenderness and tranquility. Each snapshot feels like a movie still, evoking a poetic loneliness that calls to mind scenes from Wong Kar-wai’s films.
Having moved alone to the US for his studies, Tong learned to enjoy his own company, and it felt liberating. A sense of freedom and solitude are recurrent themes in his photography, which depict different slices of American life: neon-lit diners, pier-side amusement parks, small-town youths loitering on curbsides. “I don’t consciously focus on certain themes or topics because I don’t like to limit myself,” he notes. “Going with the flow of my thoughts and emotions keeps me creatively motivated.”
In recent years, Tong has traveled extensively, shooting cities all over Europe and Asia. On these trips, he doesn’t shoot with specific agendas, preferring to capture moments spontaneously. “Being in an unfamiliar place can spark an excitement to explore new things,” he says. “Every new location is a new scene for me to shoot. It’s a feeling that’s hard to describe.”
The best fantasies often stem from our fondest memories, but living in the moment doesn’t mean we can’t still appreciate the past. It’s an ethos that Tong captures perfectly in his work.”People sometimes miss out on the beauty around them,” he says, “whereas I often pick out those moments. The things that escape notice are what I’m most drawn to.”