East Asia, Southeast Asia, Dr. David Chu Program in Asia-Pacific Studies, Asian Institute

Celebrating the 2020-21 Imaging the Asia-Pacific Photo and Video Competition Winners

Thanks to all who submitted photos and/or videos to this year’s Imaging the Asia-Pacific Photo and Video Competition! We received many boundary-pushing and thought-provoking submissions, and we are delighted to announce the grand-prize awardees.

Congratulations to Amanda Ann-Min Wong who received First Place in the Photo Series category for the gorgeous and haunting photo series, Lest We Remember, and Cheryl Cheung who received First Place in the Video category for her powerful foray into moving image with Being Western, a work that reflects the complex lived textures of global flows of power.

We also congratulate Melody (Chi Lok) Chan on receiving Second Place for her photo Lion Rock Spirit, an image that poetically captures the contemporary Hong Kong spirit while deftly referencing a longer history of struggle, and Andy Takagi for receiving Third Place for the photo series Summertime in Tokyo, with images that exceed the visual, animating the heat, sounds, and rhythms of Tokyo.

We invite you to explore Amanda, Cheryl, Melody (Chi Lok), and Andy’s award-winning works and to read more about them in the students’ own words below. All of this year’s entries are available for viewing here.

Black and white photo of an elderly man seating still on the edge of a bed

Black and white photo of a room with two chairs placed in front of a window. The left side of the photo is blurred with white color.

Black and white photo of a room cluttered with furniture and clothes hangers on the door handle.

Black and white photo of an underground space with a woman sitting at the table and working on something

Black and white photo of the entrance to a kitchen from the streetAmanda Ann-Min Wong,  Lest We Remember (Photo Series), 2015

Amanda Ann-Min Wong
First Place, Photo Series: Lest We Remember
Master of Arts Student, Cinema Studies

This photographic series explores the fading of memory through light leaks. It draws inspiration from my grandfather’s and my own dispossession—his from dementia, and mine from exile. These photographs were captured on B&W film in 2015, the last time I was able to step foot in Singapore. They seek to capture the raw emotionality of liminal spaces within the Singaporean home, framing material juxtaposition of the old and the new within the larger context of Southeast Asia’s colonial and migrant histories. Can the flicker of fading memories lead to re-imaginings of new bridges built between past and future?

I am currently in my final semester of my Master of Arts in Cinema Studies at UofT. My research interests involve films created in a pre-digital age and how their materiality contributes to a sense of loss, nostalgia, and memory. I also explore the intersecting identities and representations within Asian and Asian-diasporic micro-cinema. These meditations on memory, materiality, and diaspora helped frame and inform my personal experiences in this photo series, Lest We Remember.

I am a freelance film director, so I have a background in media production (though not specifically with photography). My love of film photography has been a present and material reminder-to-self, to cherish those ephemeral moments in the everyday.

Video still of a few color photos of a little girl captured throughout her childhood

Cheryl Cheung, Being Western (Video Still), Video, 1 minute, 2021

Cheryl Cheung
First Place, Video: Being Western
Undergraduate Student, Major in Political Science, American Studies


My experience growing up in Hong Kong now, in retrospect, feels overshadowed by my preoccupation with being in the West as a child. I saw idyllic images of what America offered in mall displays and TV shows and aspired to live differently, not as a Hong Kong citizen, but as a person who imagined only in the imagination I created with the Western influence around me. This video was filmed at my home in Toronto.

This video piece, Being Western, was really a shot in the dark. I didn’t have any interesting photos of Asia to submit because all the photos I have of Hong Kong were taken by my mum with my face in the middle. She took photos not for artistic value, but to preserve memories. I thought to make use of these photos in showing a different side of Hong Kong that a lot of people have experienced. The valorization of Western culture is especially prominent in commercial venues and progressive educational institutions (schools and tutoring agencies). It is important to think about Asian culture not as a static entity that is uniformly experienced by everyone. I wanted to explain myself, to talk about the strangeness of not quite knowing what Hong Kong was, despite having lived there for three years. I think this video offers proof in the spoken narrative and the accompanying visual evidence. 

I am a third-year undergraduate studying Political Science and American Studies. I am most interested in using data to discern the biases and targeting strategies of digital political communications, which includes news stories shared on Facebook and ads published on social media platforms in general. 

 I don’t have a background in professional videography, but I am interested in learning how to make short documentaries to tell the narratives of people in my community. I reached out to a local restaurant, Dailo, volunteering my photography services this winter. I had the privilege of taking photos and videos of their mise-en-place (kitchen prep) and realized how powerful both mediums were in communicating the grit of culinary arts. I went back recently to shoot the preparation and presentation of a vegan tasting menu with my partner as an assistant. It was a fun, collaborative project that pushed me to explore new angles and scripts for future productions. 

I do have a more formal background in photography. I started taking photos in high school with my friends, and I wound up doing strings of paid conference jobs at the start of my university career. A lot of organizations lack the budget for a photographer, so I have volunteered my equipment and services towards causes I care about, including the Central Ontario Leadership Seminars (COLS), which is a three-day excursion I participated in growing up.

Photo of a man tightrope walking over mountains with a view on Hong Kong. Melody (Chi Lok) Chan, Lion Rock Spirit, 2019

Melody (Chi Lok) Chan
Second Place: Lion Rock Spirit
Undergraduate Student, Peace Conflict and Justice & Urban Studies

The idea for my photograph the Lion Rock Spirit originated from the popular 1970s song and TV series, “Below the Lion Rock,” which commemorates the fighting spirit of Hong Kongers in face of bitter adversities. Since the Occupy Movement, the spirit has been embodied in Hong Kong people’s fight for democracy while the Lion Rock mountain has become a site for demonstrations. Amid recent events—mostly notably the enactment of National Security Law to reduce the city’s autonomy—the indomitable Lion Rock Spirit continues to guide the tumultuous journey that lies ahead for Hong Kongers’ push to freedom. This photo was captured in Lion Rock, Hong Kong in 2019.

I am a third-year undergraduate student double majoring in Peace Conflict and Justice and Urban Studies, and my research interests lie in women’s labour and migration in Southeast and East Asia. I’ve been a self-taught photographer since high school, and I’ve primarily had experience with event photography, helping document some Hart House Debates and Dialogues events, NAMUN in 2019, and social events at Trinity College. During the pandemic, I began a course in digital photography to learn more about the history of photography, experiment with special equipment that I wouldn’t normally have access to, and improve my overall technical skills. 

I’m also very interested in film. This past year, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to be the script supervisor for the short film Ateh, which is about a migrant domestic worker’s pregnancy in Hong Kong. The film will be premiering at the Fresh Wave International Short Film Festival, and I hope that this will be the first of many opportunities for me to step into this industry.

A photo of a street in Tokyo at night time capturing a taxi driving by with its bright headlights on.

Photo of three men dressed for work walking on a street, with only their legs in the shot. Photo of the shelves in a convenience store reflected in a convex security mirror.

Black and white photo of a crowd of people crossing a street.Black and white photo of a crowded street in Tokyo with neon billboards lighting up the street.Andy Takagi, Summertime in Tokyo (Photo Series), Taxi traveling through Shibuya crossing at night; Salary-men walking in a hot summer day; Inside of a convenience story from a curved mirror; Pedestrians walking through the Shibuya crossing at day; Neon lights lining the street in Shinjuku, 2018

Andy Takagi
Third Place: Summertime in Tokyo (photo series)
Undergraduate Student, Peace, Conflict, Justice Specialist, Political Science Minor

This series came about from my summers returning to Tokyo between semesters in 2018 and 2019. Tokyo summers are humid and unbearably sweaty, but undeniably they are a quintessential experience from my childhood, and I wanted to capture my new perspective of the city after having moved away for university.

I’m a Peace, Conflict and Justice specialist and a Political Science minor, and my research interests broadly include civil society, technology, and conflict. Having also grown up in Tokyo, my interests often fall on East and South East Asian politics as well.

At the time I took these photos I had just finished my term as an associate photo editor at The Varsity, which was my first foray into photojournalism. I eventually got sucked into written journalism and went on to regularly write and photograph for the paper in 2019 and 2020. More recently I freelanced a piece for The Globe and Mail which also included my photography.