Poverty In The Midst Of Plenty – a photography project by WYNG Foundation

Off http://photocontest.hk/ website: 


....... According to HKCSS statistics for the first quarter of 2011, amidst great affluence, 17.8% of the population struggle to make ends meet......

... Supported by WYNG FOUNDATION - the WYNG Photography Project is a non-profit project to spark public interest and awareness in socially-relevant subjects. The intention is to stimulate discussion and encourage social responsibility on important issues in Hong Kong through PHOTOGRAPHY – the theme for the first phase of PHOTO CONTEST HK will be Poverty in the Midst of Plenty...."

This is a photo contest (currently online, but I think a full-fledged photo exhibition one with much grander prizes will also run next month thereabouts) that I learned about from my mummy friend who works for the non-profit organizing it.

Here are some of the entries you can find on their website (I shudder to call them "favorites," so let's just say these are some of the more thought-provoking ones I picked up...):

1) "Back-breaker" by Lim Allan Derrick

The aggressively plastered ads in the background. (When it comes to selling stuff in HK, you will get leaflets galore unless you scream your lungs out at someone. Property agents will mob you on property viewing days like they are paparazzi and you are one of the Jolie-Pitts.) This elderly person still having to do a back breaking job. The suits looking on casually. The "foreigner" woman whose expression sums it up.

2) "乞求一刻" by Har Raymond

There's a description on the contest website in Chinese too, which I can't read (nor can I read this title - I just copied and pasted and hoped it shows up on my blog correctly <sheepish>)

This walkway is one I passed on often when I worked. I'd never seen this particular elderly woman, but there was a man sitting in this area with shriveled and deformed legs whom I used to give money to when I passed him... So much so he would sometimes scoot up to me (he moves around by scooting along on his bum) if he was just "coming to work" up the escalator when I was looking around for him on my lunch hour. I.... didn't particularly think I was "making the world a little better" by giving to someone on the street (for that I prefer regular donations on credit card or via church to carefully vetted organizations) - the action of giving this guy money often put me in a "healthier" state of mind myself. It helped my own attitude at work. Somewhere in the wide world is a study I once read about how some of the people who stuck the longest at charity work were the ones who admitted their own selfish motives, what they got out of helping others. This must be one of the things they refer to... But well, blessed is the giver...

3) "同樣目的-為生活" by Liu Chun Kit

Ditto this one re the Chinese description (aiya all the Chinese ones la)... Bearing in mind I could not read what the photographer says, my views on this one may diverge wildly (but it's one of the more thought provoking to me nonetheless):

The policeman seems to be telling this woman she can't (beg? solicit? if only I knew what her sign says...) I don't know if others see a "bully" and a "helpless" woman, but I don't. She is able-bodied and relatively young. Not to mention she actually looks a little belligerent to me. And there are certain taxi queues and paths that I will avoid as much as possible til today because of the "beggars" who fairly regularly and aggressively ask for money there. Some of them yell at passersby about it with a strong sense of entitlement.

These "beggars" include two guys whom I'm fairly sure (God forgive me if I'm wrong) are faking mental illness (have seen one come out of his mental stupor on a "break" and another keep re-dying his hair different brown/ red colors and gel it in punk-ish style on occasion) and a middle-age-ish woman who is always in mourning clothes and will hold your elbow or keep shaking your sleeve and cry next to you while you wait for a taxi - unless you speak in English and she thinks you can't understand her, whereupon she will immediately move on to the next person in line.

Maybe you think I'm a horrible person saying these things about people who, regardless whether they're faking or not have to beg. But I dislike most of all those who pretend to be helpless or hopeless (but could actually get a job or etc) because they are drawing resources away from the people who really need help. And I hold them responsible for the apathy that people in real need often face - because people who would otherwise have been much more willing to help just become too afraid of getting conned. Or unable to walk along the street without being harassed by the fakers.

4) "一窮一富" by Lau Ah

Hey. I've seen this lady, I've given to this lady several times! She's a little funny, because half the time I passed her by, I hadn't even realized she might want money, she wouldn't have the cup. And then the first time she was holding the cup and I put money in it she didn't even blink or acknowledge I existed. I hurried away from her that first day wondering if she even wanted money and whether she was mad at me for assuming she did. (Subsequently she would grin on occasion or hold the cup out when I looked like I was going to give her money and I actually felt relieved I hadn't pissed off some Hongkie grannie who was just watching the world go by! :P)

5) "Dream Car" by Yip Micros

'Nuff said. Micros Yip, you managed to do a Poverty In The Midst Of Plenty entry that raised awareness yet didn't make people feel horrible for wanting to not see so many sad pictures about a sad topic. I mention, because I think a lot of people who see sad pictures about a sad topic would rather not be as "aware". Case in point the homeless people right in the middle of Central or Causeway Bay whom all the working professionals avoid as they speed walk around them. Which probably doesn't help. This one is "awareness" about a sad topic without people feeling horribly guilty for not giving more, not forwarding more "slacktivist" emails, joining more Facebook groups...... So Micros, you're kinda cool.

6) "璀璨環抱" by Ma Tony

There's a lot of similar entries like this one though, across from this street sleeper in Central are jewelry stores/ Harvey Nichols, Landmark et al and this is a busy intersection  where lotsa well-dressed working professionals would normally pass at lunch hour as well...  Ditto similar entries taking in the Causeway Bay area...

7) "舊區翻新, 誰的勝利?" by Chan Corsodyl

Had to pick at least one "scenery" one too... One of the first things that struck me coming to HK was how really old buildings could exist side by side super duper modern ones...

Ok, I daresay this one's my favorite. Drrrrrum roll please:

8) "Street Sleeper" by Kin-pong Siu

Did anyone notice this is a fat un-mangy-looking mutt dressed in a couple t-shirts  who seems to be guarding his/her homeless person's part of the pavement the way you might have a dog guard the front of your house? That, or blissfully sleeping alongside, anyway.

Again, can't read the Chinese description, my own take was can Poverty In The Midst Of Plenty be spun to mean this well-fed mutt despite its owner not having a roof or bed? Or is that Plenty In The Midst Of Poverty?

It might not really follow what you would expect of the theme, but I would buy this pic. Preferably in black and white, but color is fine too. Why? Because the relatively well cared for mutt implies we don't lose our humanity or kindness even in the midst of hardship. I bet that mutt really loves his/her homeless owner and doesn't know or care that they're homeless, unlike everyone else around them. (And if you tried to take that cardboard and blanket away this dog wouldn't let you. JD guards my handbag the same way.)

In a sea of horribly sad images of elderly people begging on the street while yuppies and branded goods surround them and people pretending they don't exist (not judging!), Homeless Mutt Pic is like a message of hope and faith in at least some of human nature and its strength and resilience.

The WYNG Photography Project, supported by a private charity foundation, seeks to create a significant photography prize AND provoke discussion. It is more than just about excellence in photography, it also aims to bring community awareness to a specific socially-relevant topic annually.

For more on the WYNG Foundation, visit www.wyng.hk.

To join the online photo competition, visit http://photocontest.hk/ and submit an entry before 30 April 2012 for HKD 20,000, HKD 10,000 or HKD 5,000 prizes.

Related posts:

About Aileen

I blog about living and raising my son in Hong Kong - where toddlers have entrance interviews, parents keep test score spreadsheets, private school debentures can trade for more than half a million USD. Raising Rockstar's the most important thing I'll ever do. We show our true colors by the choices we make in bringing up our children. My blog is a message to my toddler son, about what the world and his parents are like today - for when he becomes a teenager and knows everything.
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  • http://webs-of-significance.blogspot.in/ YTSL

    Thought-provoking pics.  On another note: do they expect all Hong Kongers to have a Facebook account?! :O

    • http://raisingrockstar.com Aileen

      Hihi YTSL… guess u mean to enter the contest right, unfortunately yes (just checked)… Maybe you can create a separate account for uploading contest entries though?

      • http://webs-of-significance.blogspot.in/ YTSL

        Hi Aileen —

        I was wondering about entering but no big deal about not being able to.  And yes, I’m still a Facebook holdout! 😉

      • http://raisingrockstar.com Aileen

        I hate all the new applications and functions fb has too, I use only the much simpler functions and even then often don’t log on more than once a week… I think in this case they’re kinda using fb as a “data capture” system of contest entrants rather than building their own… It’s certainly easier to link to an established media rather than build from scratch and debug… So you might want to look at creating an fb profile in order to participate more as a means of entering your entrant data – on an fb page rather than a separate contest page? 

      • http://raisingrockstar.com Aileen

        I hate all the new applications and functions fb has too, I use only the much simpler functions and even then often don’t log on more than once a week… I think in this case they’re kinda using fb as a “data capture” system of contest entrants rather than building their own… It’s certainly easier to link to an established media rather than build from scratch and debug… So you might want to look at creating an fb profile in order to participate more as a means of entering your entrant data – on an fb page rather than a separate contest page? 

  • http://lifeafter38.blogspot.com/ zmun2

    I don’t know how true this is but I heard that some elderly people prefer to beg and sleep on the street rather than to be taken to welfare homes for the elderly operated by the government. If it is true, is it because of the “poor” state of the welfare homes or is it because the elderly people cherish their “freedom”?

    • http://raisingrockstar.com Aileen

      Good question, for which I don’t know the answer 😛 I’m not sure where the street elderly go on nights when Hk temperatures drop to single digits celsius though, ie the homes available to them would either have to be super crappy or else they are more fiercely independent and tougher than I initially imagined; now that u mention though, i remember noting that the disabled guy I mentioned following pic #2 never seemed to feel the cold sitting there, often wearing pretty much the same thing in both summer n winter without any sign of discomfort (and I saw him/ went up to him a lot, back then…)