Kurt Tong - Kursaleté Prints

Kurt Tong

Born in Hong Kong in 1977, Kurt Tong originally trained as a health visitor at the University of Liverpool. He has worked and traveled extensively across Europe, the Americas and Asia. In 1999, Kurt co-founded Prema Vasam, a charitable home for disabled and disadvantaged children in Chennai, South India.

Kurt became a full-time photographer in 2003. He was the winner of the Luis Valtuena International Humanitarian Photography Award with his first picture story documenting the treatment of disabled children in India. He has worked for many NGOs and covered stories from female infanticide to ballroom dancers.

He gained his Masters in documentary photography at the London College of Communications in 2006 and began working on more personal projects. He has since been chosen as the winner of Photograph.Book.Now competition, the Hey, Hot Shot! competition and the Jerwood Photography Award for his project People’s Park, a wistful exploration of the now deserted Communist era public spaces. In Case it Rains in Heaven, explores the practice of Chinese funeral offerings, has been widely exhibited and features in several public collections. A monograph of the work was published by Kehrer Verlag in 2011.

His more recent work, The Queen, The Chairman and I, a multilayered, narrative picture book that examines the story of Hong Kong of the last 100 years, and the Asian Diaspora, through the lives of his own family, is presented in the form of a Chinese teahouse installation where the story is shared. The project has been exhibited across 5 continents, most recently at the Victoria Museum in Liverpool, United Kingdom and Galleri Image in Denmark.

Much of Kurt’s recent work, while remaining photographic in essence, has moved towards installation and sculptural-based practice, pushing the boundaries of the medium. His new work will debut at the Identity Art Gallery, Hong Kong in February 2014.

Kurt is represented by Jen Bekman Gallery in New York, The Photographer’s Gallery in London and by Identity Art Gallery and Blindspot Gallery in Hong Kong.

Kurt Tong
Project Statement

Kursaleté Prints

These 10 unique prints are some of the first samples of the latest printing technology known as Kursaleté Print.

For over 100 years, photography has been based on photo sensitive chemicals reacting to lights. However, with the advance of digital imaging, photographic prints are now overwhelmingly inkjet. In 1991, Jack Duganne, a digital print maker in California came up with the name Giclée, a French verb meaning ‘that which is sprayed or squirted’ for his inkjet prints. Giclée prints are now regarded as the high-end inkjet prints within the fine art market.

With that in mind, Kurt Tong is developing the next generation of photo imaging. Moving on from ‘ink squirted onto paper’, Kurt will be utilising dirt. Different adhesives are applied onto traditional Giclée prints and left on various roadsides in order for air pollutants to organically bind to the prints. Hong Kong was chosen as the first test city since it has one of the worst air qualities in relation to GDP per capital in the world.

To give credibility to the technique, Saleté, French for ‘dirt’ has been chosen for its name. Future prints will also utilize burnt bugs in street lamps and reclaimed land dust. (The above statement was originally submitted into the WYNG Masters Award. Kurt Tong has employed a satire frame of the current fine art print market as a vehicle to examine current air quality issues in Hong Kong and to physically visualise existing air pollutants.)