Ian Tong is a New York-based photographer originally from Hong Kong. With over 15 years in the industry, his experience encompasses a wide range of commissioned
and personal photographic work. A series of personal projects currently keeps him busy, taking him to memorable locales such as Stockholm and Shanghai.
Tong’s personal work is concerned with environmental and societal issues that has been recognized regularly and featured in various competitions. His work has been selected for the prestigious American Photography annuals 27, 28 and 30. Also of particular note is his inclusion in the Aperture Foundation 2014 summer open exhibition.
Ian has a BA from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada and a MFA degree from Pratt Institute, New York, NY.
A NOTE FROM IAN
“Working to photograph the homeless in DC for PWUC has been an engaging and revealing experience for me. As we go about our daily routines, often we are unaware of how fortunate we are in our own lives. In the past, DC had a reputation for urban blight and rough neighborhoods. On the whole, that is mostly gone, in its place I found a city that was revitalized with many different and vibrant neighborhoods. Yet despite these changes, I saw a large homeless population; people who were either living on the streets or in shelters.
Travelling around DC with my assistant, we talked to many of these individuals and I asked to photograph them. While some declined, many were open to being photographed and willing to talk to us about their experience of living without a home. Life on the streets was a struggle but was easier during the mild and warm months. With numerous parks and outdoor areas in DC, there are plenty of places to hang out and pass the time. As winter approached though, many expressed the coming need to access indoor shelter.
There are a number of shelters and food pantries in DC and they form an important part of the support system for the homeless. As I travelled around the city, we learnt that many of the homeless follow a particular routine. For instance, people we met in the evening, we would meet again the next day as they travelled to the food kitchen or library across town. (image of buildings with graffiti)
We met people who had touching stories and unfortunate situations. Some lost their jobs, some suffered health issues and some were recovering addicts. We saw that many of these individuals stayed in groups for friendship, safety, and support. This experience has made me more aware of the daily struggles the homeless face. It is not an easy struggle but I am hopeful for many of the individuals I met.”