An open access photographic archive for anyone interested in Hong Kong and its history.

Welcome to the Hong Kong in Transition website, a resource for formal or informal study of Hong Kong’s history during the period leading up to decolonization and during the early part of its existence as a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. This is a not-for-profit and free to access website which presents an archive of photographs of Hong Kong taken between 1 January 1995 and 1 January 2020. Photos may be in either black and white or colour, and all have been taken by the same photographer, David Clarke.  This archive of photos is presented for the interest and pleasure of the general public as well as for the benefit of students, researchers and other specialist user groups.   While some of the photos may be considered of artistic value, the vast majority of them are simply straightforward documentary images. While the archive as a whole naturally reflects its creator’s own interests and perspective on Hong Kong and the historical changes it has undergone during the 25 years the project covers, it is primarily intended as a resource for its users to conduct their own historical investigations and construct their own stories about Hong Kong. There is no attempt to be comprehensive, and photos will often present simple details of everyday life rather than focusing on the kind of events that appear in news reports, or which are documented in the work of professional photojournalists. Because photos have a perfect memory of the events they record, and contain a rich range of information well beyond what the photographer considered at the time to be their subject, they can be used to investigate a wide variety of aspects of the past. Above all, photos are the natural enemies of attempts to misrepresent or over-simplify the historical story of Hong Kong’s transition beyond colonial rule. It should be clearly understood that there is a distinction between representing something in a documentary photographic image and endorsing that thing.  A diverse range of events, actions, written statements, symbols and other things are shown in the images of this archive, and users of this website should understand that in documenting Hong Kong history of the quarter century from 1995 to 2020 for the benefit of posterity the photographer is not thereby endorsing each particular event, action, written statement, symbol or other thing shown in the photographs. In particular the photographer wishes to clarify that he in no way endorses illegal acts, and any photographs included in this archive which depict such acts or their consequences should not be interpreted as supportive of them. 

The primary organizing principle of the Hong Kong in Transition photo archive is by date. Some dates may have more than one photo, perhaps many, but there will also be dates for which no photo is available.  If you are searching for images from a certain time you can make use of date to find them, or if you are searching for a particular person, place or topic then you can use keyword search. You can also choose to combine dates and keywords in a search, and can make a more comprehensive search by choosing the option to search words in captions and associated texts in addition to keywords. If this latter option is utilized then one should, however, be prepared for the possibility of some irrelevant results. Detailed searches of the kind just described are made by using the 'Search Whole Archive' function, but one can also choose to investigate the archive by date using the 'Browse by Date' function, or by keyword using the 'Browse by Keyword' function. On occasion there may be no result in a keyword search - this indicates that any image linked to that keyword has not yet been activated. Sometimes it may appear that a keyword search has brought up an image which doesn't seem immediately related to that keyword - in such cases check the image's page for a descriptive text since it may be that the text associated with the image mentions something connected to that keyword. It is impossible for all potential keywords to be listed so you may have to browse through the archive directly to find what you are looking for. In fact, it is hoped that many users will enjoy directly engaging with the images by browsing through them, rather than approaching the archive via a filter of words. If you are not searching for anything in particular then that visual approach is the recommended one, and you can watch in slideshow mode if you want or just browse using left and right arrows, starting at any point you wish using the 'Browse by Date' function. Alternatively you can use the 'Lucky Dip' function to view a random collection of images from different dates. All images have caption information and a list of associated keywords, and some have additional textual information associated with them as appropriate. Click through from an image in search results to reach this. For obvious reasons, it will be easier to view the images when using a larger screen.

In addition to viewing the images on this website without charge, visitors are also free to download a limited number of low-resolution images for personal uses of a non-commercial nature (educational use is particularly encouraged). For further clarification of permitted uses of images, as well as information on obtaining higher resolution images from the archive, copyright clearance to publish them, and other rights not already freely granted to users, see the ‘Permitted free use’ button. To download images please click on the 'Download image' button on the individual image page, then click on the 'Agree and download image' button at the bottom of that new page.
For further background on this project see the ‘More information’ tab.