Hong Kong Profile - Frank Freeman @ Time Out Hong Kong

Hong Kong Profile - Frank Freeman
written by April Foster - Time Out Hong Kong

Imagine feeling so inspired by the people you work with that it changes who you are, right down to your name. That’s what happened to Frank Freeman - nee Frank Chan. The professional photographer has just launched the third in a series of exhibitions on his biggest project to date, The Purest People. His portraits capture 23 sparkling personalities all aged between 10 to 20. But these aren’t typical models. In fact, they are all with Down syndrome - a genetic disorder caused by abnormal chromosomes that affects roughly 3000 people in Hong Kong. The condition is typically associated with physical growth delays and intellectual disability, which can lead to prejudice against people with the disorder. That’s something Freeman wants to rectify through the power of photography. He’s found, from working with the models, that they highlight the importance of honesty and truthfulness, ultimately prompting him to change his name. “ After shooting the models, I changed my name, “ he says. “ now I’m Frank Freeman. “
The Purest People is a title inspired by a comment that Freeman’s English teacher made when he was at secondary school. “ He said people with Down syndrome are the purest people in the world. “ Explains Freeman. “ They many have genetic differences to us but they have really pure hearts, innocent thoughts and are very good to other people. “
Wind the clock forward six years and the story unfolds at City University of Hong Kong, School of Creative Media. Where the subject of Freeman’s final year photography project is “ Human Faces.” Instantly I thought of people with Down syndrome,” he recalls. “ When we’re walking in the streets, we can tell from their physical features that people with Down syndrome but we don’t necessarily know much about it. My curiosity drove me to learn more.” The current exhibition in Quarry Bay is an extension of this graduate project. And it’s a project that Freeman has managed to put together on top of his full-time photography job with a local magazine. He’s worked tirelessly over the past year to co-ordinate models and make up artists, arrange shoots and apply for sponsors to print the photographs ( which cost a hefty 2000 HKD each ).
Key to Freeman’s shots is the fact that the models are all doing, and wearing, exactly what they please. There’s keen swimmer, Betty, donning a custom and float, lined up next to Nathan - sporting full basketball regalia with a ball tucked under one arm. “ The costumes that they’re wearing are what they love to do and what they are good at,” says Freeman, “ and the poses are a mutual thing. I’ll try a few pictures with one pose first, then we’ll look at the computer and talk about what works.” From the photos, it’s evident that Freeman is adept at putting people at ease, which he says is down to music. “ People with Down syndrome are very sensitive to sound,” he says. “ I found out that Wing likes local singer, Eason Chan, so we played his songs during the shoot. My assistants and I started dancing together and she started laughing. I got this great picture with her lovely smile. “
The photographs all share a distinctive yellow background, which Freeman says reflects the happiness he’s felt over the past three years when working with his models. “ Each of them presented their true character during the shoot and they opened up to me,” he says. “ We shared a lot of happiness. It was tiring but it was the most enjoyable time in my shooting life.” He hopes that the photographs are valued by the subjects and their families, and is donating them to the models after the exhibition. “ I think the photos help them to change they way they think of themselves a little, “ says Freeman thoughtfully. “ When you look in the mirror, you only see one side of yourself. You need another mirror, another person, to talk and give you different reflections. A picture can be powerful visual reflection.”
As one of the first photography exhibitions in the city to focus on people with Down syndrome, it has inevitably stirred up a lot of attention in the local press. Freeman hopes that it’s one of many projects to come that star people with Down syndrome and help to improve understanding of the genetic disorder.
“ Some people think that people with Down syndrome have low ability, “ says Freeman, “ but they have this bias without knowing them first. I wanted to do the exhibition so that people can see who they really are. Just by talking about the disorder, it’s a good beginning for change. “ written by April Foster

The Purest People @ PMM Media













「最純的人」巡迴攝影展覽 THE PUREST PEOPLE - Roving photography exhibitions X The Hong Kong Down Syndrome Association



中學時老師在課堂上無意談及他們,記得他其中一句:“他們是世界上最純潔的人。” 這話從此引發我對這班朋友的興趣,而大學二年級一份關於“人類面孔”的攝影功課更令我深思:為什麼他們的面孔如此相似 ? 單眼皮,圓臉,加上一抺陽光般的笑容 ! 我推想,這可能是上天給他們的恩賜, 讓他們的世界沒有分歧,不分此,不論美醜。 在好奇心的驅使下, 我主動進入唐氏綜合症協會做義務攝影師,在當義工的兩三年期間,我確確實實被他們的特質所吸引,便決定幫他們拍攝一些漂亮的相片,讓他們開心一下,並同時作為展覽,告訴大眾,他們是一班很可愛,善良的人,値得大家主動認識了解。
這計劃是本人的大學畢業作品,有幸能與香港唐氏綜合症協會的合作,同時得到許多機構認同及支持,使照片得以於今年一月至四月,設有三次展覽。展覽畢,所有展覽的相片將會送給相片中的小主角, 大人物。 This project creates portraits of people with Down Syndrome, capturing their pure essence in the form of beautiful photography. Through launching public exhibitions on these artworks, I aspire to enhance the society’s general understanding of my models.
The biggest reason why most people look differently at people with Down Syndrome is that we don’t see them as individuals, but as patients. Not knowing how to approach or befriend them, some might simply discriminate them to escape from the difficulties. However, they are a chosen group of people. Genetic changes turn each of them into someone with innocent appearance, kind heart and free spirit. They are also emotionally expressive: when they feel happy, they will laugh out loud; when they feel sad, they will shed their tears.
One day in my secondary school life, my English teacher talked about Down Syndrome. It was a long while ago but I remember he said, “People with Down Syndrome are the purest people in the world.” This sounded very interesting to me because I had never had a chance to contact anyone with Down Syndrome. The story continues with an assignment from my university photography class, titled “Human Faces”. The special features of people with Down Syndrome make me ponder on an intriguing question: why do they share similar faces – single eyelids, round faces and huge smiles? Perhaps, this is the gift from the above, providing them a world of fairness and minimal differences, without firm judgments on beauty or ugliness.
Out of curiosity, I got to know more about them through volunteering for the Hong Kong Down Syndrome Association since the year of 2012. While I took photos of their events, I had the privilege to engage with them in conversations and activities, being touched by their purity and warmth. So I decided to provide them a chance to walk into the studio, like the other beautiful models, to shine on the set with their radiance. Those delightful moments are indeed what I am now sharing with the public.
This project is my university graduation project. It has been a great honour to collaborate with the Hong Kong Down Syndrome Association, with the generous support from different organisations. Without any one of them, the photographs will not be exhibited three times from Jan to April in 2015. As a return for their charity, I will give back all the photographs to the participants at the end of all the exhibitions.
**The Hong Kong Down Syndrome Association is devoted to improving the quality of life of people with Down Syndrome and other disabilities and their families. They also encourage people with disabilities to achieve their fullest potential and maximise the opportunity to understand every aspect of their lives, ensuring rights and opportunities within a supportive environment.**
**Being a volunteer with the association for over two years now, it’s definite that the association is doing a very important role in helping people with Down Syndrome as well as their families. I’d like to help support the association by selling my photo prints to the public, with all the profits to be donated in support of The Hong Kong Down Syndrome Association.**
For charity photos sales details, please visit : http://www.fungchan.com/prints or direct donations to the Association : http://donation.hk-dsa.org.hk/donation.asp

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