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

「我覺得這是上天的恩賜,他們外貌一樣,沒有分歧、沒有美醜、沒有差異,他們很純真快樂,即使有缺陷卻是平等的。」攝影師陳風Frank所形容的,正是患有唐氏綜合症的小朋友。相片中的每位小主角同樣擁有比較集中的五官:圓潤的臉、細小的眼睛、扁平的鼻子,這些特徵都讓人印象深刻,相信你偶然在街上也會遇見他們。可是這個症狀往往留給人負面的印象,人們容易先入為主地想:這個孩子很慘、行為異常;他的父母一定很大壓力;他沒有將來⋯⋯Frank希望透過「最純的人」攝影展,展示他們美麗的一面讓公眾認識,了解更多,扭轉偏見。

很多人對於唐氏綜合症患者或其他有明顯發展障礙的人敬而遠之,除了因為「非我族類」的劃分,也會害怕其行為不當影響到自己。攝影師Frank並沒有像一般大眾那樣遠離他們,反而對他們擁有相同的面孔而感到好奇,在大學唸攝影時也深入到香港唐氏綜合症協會擔任義工,在認識、了解過後,發現他們很開朗、樂天,很想公眾也了解他們這一面。同時,Frank童年很少拍照留影,更認為照片能帶領孩子回憶自己過去、保留珍貴一刻,對於唐氏孩子更甚,此次攝影展可謂有多重意義。

Frank為籌備這次攝影展,透過唐氏綜合症協會找來了23位10至20歲的唐氏綜合症朋友為模特兒,捕捉他們快樂的動態。照片選用了鮮豔的黃色為背景,Frank說那是代表開心的顏色,並讓模特兒穿上自己喜歡的衣服,根據其興趣和性格決定相片的主題。他們當中有人穿著芭蕾舞衣擺出跳舞的姿態、有些抱著籃球、有些在耍武術、有些在吹口風琴,但幾乎都笑得非常燦爛。Frank回憶拍攝的過程充滿歡樂,他說:「我們首先談笑聊天,讓他放鬆心情。後來我播著音樂,他們自然跟著音樂擺動,十分有趣!而其中一個妹妹因為我忽然的打嗝聲而發笑,於是我便和她一起喝著可樂、打著嗝拍攝。」Frank使盡法寶逗他們笑,他們則熱情地回應:幫Frank按按肩或像小貓一樣靠著他,這種直接、快樂的互動讓他覺得十分難得。

唐氏孩子表達情緒的方式很直接,只要你給予一個微笑,他可能會給你一個擁抱;一個簡單的笑話,足夠讓他們快樂半天。知足、簡單、快樂,是留給Frank的印象。是故,唐氏綜合症患者就如孩童般純真、無機心,他們的缺陷只是基因出現問題,協會的籌款及公共關係主任Karen向我們介紹道:「病症是由於其體內23對染色體中第21對出現變異,造成學習與智力發展障礙。他們除了相貌大致相似外,亦較容易患上心漏病、糖尿病,四肢的大小肌發展較差。同時他們約30歲就會出現衰老症狀,比常人早20年衰老。」唐氏孩子有不同程度的智力障礙,輕度者智商可達50-69,能應付基本社交及溝通技巧;嚴重者智商只有20以下,需要不斷的指導才能學會簡單自我照顧。不過,他們的生活技能會隨學習和訓練而增加,協會亦提供不同種類的興趣班、職業訓練及設有工場,安排他們做簡單包裝工作,甚至有些能到樂農這類的社企餐廳工作。

既然唐氏孩子出生要面對那麼問題,還有陌生人歧視的目光,那父母為何仍要讓孩子出生呢?這個問題,正是一般人忽略的地方,只看到孩子帶來的負擔而看不到其優點。Karen笑說:「當你30歲,還會熱情地親吻你的父母嗎?你可能不會,但他們會!」所有選擇都不是必然只有好或壞,發展正常的孩子不代表特別好管教,而唐氏孩子不代表絕望,他們即使有缺陷,但上天卻賜予他們快樂、熱情的感染力,家庭會因此變得更團結、關係更緊密。所以選擇的背後,視乎人們的心態如何而己,而我們亦應該看得更闊一點。話雖如此,現時的唐氏綜合症產前測試已可於懷孕三個月左右便可接受檢測,父母或基於多方考慮而終止懷孕,也表示其數量會愈來愈少。Frank鼓勵大眾多點接觸他們,如在街上遇到的話不妨主動打招呼或到相關機構做義工,親身了解他們的可愛之處,學習用真誠、直接和知足來待人。

另外,3月中旬即將會舉行第二次攝影展,而4月會展出有全輯相片讓公眾欣賞,Frank還透露屆時會有唐氏孩子運用舊式菲林的傻瓜機拍攝作品「最純的眼」同時展出,我們可從相片認識到他們看世界的角度,以另類方法了解他們更多。未來,Frank還計畫運用攝影才能做更多公益項目,正構想招募有志攝影師一起為單親家庭孩子當「一日父親」,計畫每位攝影師陪同一位孩子在生日時到主題樂園遊玩,並為其拍下歡樂的時刻。訪問中,Frank不時以感恩的態度憶述籌備影展的困難,又指自己學會在生活上與人坦誠溝通,他說:「抱持這種性格,生活變得美好多了!」知足常樂,是唐氏孩子給我們的勉勵。

第二輯影展
日期:3月17-29日

地點:灣仔集成中心集成展廊

全輯影展+唐氏孩子作品

日期:4月2-12日

地點:太古坊林肯大廈天橋

http://www.pmmmedia.com/chi/ngo_news/137/view.php



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

是次計劃拍攝一班患唐氏綜合症的朋友,捕捉他們最純真的一面,然後以攝影展覽作為平台,讓大眾有機會去認識真正的他們。

很多時候我們都因智力的差距,不知應該如何與他們溝通,便往往選擇避開他們,形成歧視。但其實他們是很特別的一群,基因的變化令他們成為了一班純真,善良,無機心的人。他們率直感性,開心就笑,難過哭。

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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