FEBRUARY 2013 BACK ISSUE by Catherine Karnow Part I I was born and grew up in Hong Kong in the 1960s. My father was bureau-chief for Time-Life as well as the Southeast Asia foreign correspondent for the Washington Post; he covered Vietnam and China. It was a heady time to be in Hong Kong, though I dont remember how aware I was of growing up in such a special place at an important time. It was just my home. We lived in the tiny fishing village of Stanley, which was not the tourist market it is today. I went to British and then American school; we went to the beach or swimming at Shek-O Country Club. Sometimes we went to Kowloon, but this was before the tunnel, so we had to take the Star Ferry. I loved my home and leaving to come to the United States was very difficult. A couple years ago I had an assignment to shoot "Old Hong Kong" for National Geographic Traveler. I was worried it would be hard to find, as the Hong Kong of today is all gleaming new skyscrapers and fancy shopping centers. But I found old Hong Kong without difficulty, in the back streets of Sheung Wan, or in Wan Chai. In fact old Hong Kong was everywhere. I found a popular congee (ride porridge) shop, little incense-filled temples and altars, simple outdoor restaurants which looked almost familiar from my youth. Old Hong Kong was also all around me in ways I couldn’t capture well in photographs: the feel of the curvy streets winding up to the Peak, the tangled vines that hung down over the roads, the damp humid smell of the path beside the Peak tram, the barking Cantonese I heard everywhere. Before I left home, I thought I would make moody grey images for the story, as I have such a sad nostalgia for Hong Kong. But I found myself shooting bright, childlike colors everywhere: buildings, trams, and the delightful plastic bowls and spoons in the street-food restaurants. I realised that I was happy about my Hong Kong childhood. My photographs showed me the pure delight I had in rediscovering my old Hong Kong. Catherine and her mother, Annette Karnow, Repulse Bay beach, Hong Kong, 1964. Catherine Karnow enjoys birthday cake at her second birthday party with mother and nanny, Hong Kong, 1962. Catherine Karnow, on her birthday, with Jingo, the family dog, Hong Kong, 1963. Catherine Karnow with her first camera, a Kodak Brownie, and childhood friend, Linchoy, Hong Kong, 1967. Catherine Karnow enjoys birthday cake at her second birthday party with her beloved Chinese "amah" or nanny, Newying, Hong Kong, 1962. Catherine Karnow's brother Curt Karnow at their first house on Headland Road, with the beautiful view of islands and sea, Hong Kong, 1961. Catherine Karnow as a baby, with her with her beloved Chinese "amah" or nanny, Newying, Hong Kong, 1961. Catherine Karnow aged about five, with her father, acclaimed journalist, Stanley Karnow, 1965. Catherine (3rd from left) with friends, Hong Kong. Note the patent leather shoes, 1964. Catherine's father, acclaimed journalist, Stanley Karnow, and brother Curt Karnow, on a junk, Hong Kong, 1961. Catherine's mother, Annette Karnow, tries on hats in the market, Bangkok, 1965. Old Hong Kong Today The iconic Star Ferry makes its way across Hong Kong harbour. Shirtless man rides his bicycle past a gleaming red Ferrari in a classic Hong Kong scene in Central. Man walks past land that is being reclaimed from the harbour to build more buildings, Central Hong Kong. The historic Central Police Station, built 1864, British colonial architecture, is not in use, and will be turned into a shopping and entertainment center, Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong.
Trams and crowds, Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, Hong Kong. Old style apartment block, Kings Road, North Point, Hong Kong. Tiny altar on Peel Street just below Staunton Street, Soho, Central, Hong Kong. Back to current issue