Mike Tsang: Between East & West
Between East & West is a project by photographer Mike Tsang, and shows portraits of British-born Chinese people and the story of their heritage. Families always contain diverse histories, especially those who have crossed continents and transplanted into an entirely different society.
Some British Chinese families retain elements of their culture, while others grow up barely aware of their heritage. Like many mixed race or immigrant people, they talk of feeling more Chinese in Britain and British when visiting China. Testament includes the experience of adoption, of being typecast, and coming out. An Elvis impersonator, a member of the House of Lords, British Chinese from all walks of life share what they have in common – the experience of multiple identity.
Photography in exhibition is often accompanied by captions, and has to balance image against words. Between East & West has considerable script and quotations to read beside each image, and so one ends up spending more time reading than looking at the works. The photographs are benign portraits, each subject lit up within their surroundings, the focus leading the eye to the person. Mounted on aluminium board rather than framed, the colours are warm and intense, giving a strong, documentary presence.
Scattered on surfaces, available for browsing and picking up, are digital facsimiles of family snaps from the artist and the subjects. Scenes that could be from any family album of recent decades mingle together as a poignant treasure trove.
Mike Tsang hopes his project may tour to other British cities where there is a significant Chinese heritage population. Chinese people have long had a significant presence in Britain – they are British; they are us, and as this project shows, are just as mixed and mixed up as everyone else. Until Chinese actors get parts as actors and not just Chinese parts, projects such as these humanise and shatter stereotypes.