In 1968 I was given a toy plastic camera as a present, and I took my first ever roll of film. This was the only roll of film I took with the camera, and I believe that I dismantled it soon after to find out how it worked (maybe it had gotten damaged already). Because these plastic cameras suffer from light leakage there were only four photos from the roll that were printable. These were portraits of my mother and my father on the front steps of our home, a portrait of my brother in the front garden, plus a view from an upstairs back window of the house. In 2002, I took another set of photos with a similar medium-format plastic camera, in the same places and with the same people (except in the case of my father who is no longer alive).
My interest in producing pairs or sequences of photographs, even when there is no specific thing that the photos can be said to be ‘before and after’, predates the completion of this particular work. In 1995, for instance, I was guest editor for an issue of the photo magazine Dislocation which I titled ‘Revisions’, and I invited a number of artists to submit pairs of their own photographs. The only rule they had to follow was that one of the pair had to have been taken before they received my invitation, and the other had to have been taken after it, but should have some kind of relationship to the earlier image. My biggest ‘before and after’ photographic project was the ‘photo diary’ I kept between the last day of 1994 and the first day of 2000. During this period I took at least one photograph every day. Clearly the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong from Britain to China was the event whose before and after was being documented by this project, since the handover occurred at its exact mid point. Many of the photographs from this project are included in my book Reclaimed Land: Hong Kong in Transition (Hong Kong University Press, 2002), and there are several pairs or sequences of images in the book which document changes of specific locations over time. Such documentation has continued to interest me up to the present moment, and on my first visit back to New York after September 11th 2001 I felt compelled to visit the World Trade Center site to take a photo to pair with one I had taken of the twin towers on an earlier visit.