Chicago photographer shows Hong Kong protests through unique lens

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Protests in Hong Kong have continued for nearly a year. Without a resolution in sight, one Chicago-based photographer traveled there to learn and document the situation in-person.

"My hope for these photographs is that they are maybe a gateway into an extended consideration. Not just surfing on the headlines," said photographer Hillary Johnson.

"To try to get a deeper sense of the story, and to see the real human face of what's going on."

Equipped with a large-format 8-by-10 inch camera, Johnson approached her topic with a unique perspective.

She would often share meals with her photo subjects and spend time in their homes before taking photographs. Her aim was to create art portraits through her documentation of a historic moment.

"I don't really think of myself as a conflict photographer at all," Johnson said. "I wanted to go and just talk to people, ordinary people, from all different sides of the situation."

She and her husband, Matt Johnson, have deep connections to Hong Kong through the Ving Tsun practice of Kung Fu.

Matt became a Kung Fu master, called Sifu in Cantonese, after studying in Hong Kong with the youngest son of Grandmaster Ip Man. He now teaches Ving Tsun in the Pilsen neighborhood, the Pilsen martial arts studio where the Johnsons live.

"I started to travel to Hong Kong to learn Ving Tsun 20 years ago," Matt said. "Over the years of going there, year, after year, I became part of the kung fu family over there."

During their time in Hong Kong, Johnson witnessed several major confrontations, including 30-hour outdoor showdown.

"What we saw was not the worst of things, but it was enough to see that, this did not seem how police should behave," Johnson said.

See more of Johnson's photographs on her website or on display at the Ving Tsun Self Defense Academy in Pilsen.
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