HK Tramways’ 115th anniversary proves too good a photo opportunity for Japanese artist to miss

22-Jan-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Japanese artist Koichi Matsuda has taken as many as 10,000 photos of Hong Kong’s iconic trams over the past five years but at no time did he expect his pictures to one day feature on the vehicle he loves.

The city’s tramway will celebrate its 115th anniversary this year with the launch of Art Tram designed by Matsuda.

The body of the special edition tram uses around 350 of his images and shows a range of eye-catching advertisements, from international retail brands to Chinese medicated oil.

The variety represents Hong Kong’s charm, where East meets West in culture, Matsuda said, adding he had never seen a tram covered in colourful advertisements before he came to the city.

“Hong Kong trams are special. In Japan, there are no double-decker [trams],” the 65-year-old said, adding that this uniqueness helped him to frame his pictures in a balanced way.

“The constant change of tram advertisements is the most suitable subject to showcase the vigorous economic growth of Hong Kong.”

Over the past five years, Matsuda has visited Hong Kong 20 times and used the same lens and camera to capture moments featuring trams, usually from the same spot the Shau Kei Wan terminus, where he was attracted by the backdrop of old tenement buildings.

The artist said he was impressed by the billboards and clothes hanging outside homes, as well as air conditioners on the walls. The terminus allowed him to capture the three elements in one place.

From 2016 to last year, Matsuda hosted six exhibitions in Japan and Taipei after building a collection of photos of Hong Kong trams, affectionately known in the city as “ding dings” for their bell sounds.

He recalled some Japanese people said they wanted to come to Hong Kong after looking at his photos.

“Many of my friends became more interested in Hong Kong and trams after seeing my work,” he said.

But Matsuda wanted to take his art to the next level by using his photos to decorate a tram.

The opportunity came after Hong Kong Tramways “liked” one of his photos on social media, prompting him to contact the company to float his idea.

The artist was particularly happy he could decorate a tram.

“I look forward to taking a photo of this Art Tram in the same position at Shau Kei Wan terminus!” he said.

The special edition tram will run on Hong Kong Island for two to three months. The city’s first fleet of 26 trams began operations in 1904. The operator now has 164 trams running along the 30km system and carries 200,000 passengers daily.


Category: Hong Kong

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