Introducing the Frank Fischbeck Collection

On 19 September 2019, The University of Hong Kong acquired the FormAsia Books photographic collection. A unique collection of rare, historic, original photographs dating from 1860 to the 1997 Hong Kong Handover. 

The Frank Fischbeck Collection (Collection) consists of a number of discrete sub-collections that comprise:

  1. Albumen/Silver/Gelatin Original Photographs (1,000) — Silver gelatin prints became the dominant photographic process from the 1880s until the 1960s;

  2. Rare Albumen Prints (125) — The significance of an albumen print is that it was the first commercial method of producing a photograph from 1855 to the turn of the 20th century. Few have survived, as they tend to be fragile and suffer from exposure to light;

  3. Historic Panorama Prints (20) — Panorama prints are rare. FormAsia invested in out-of-the-ordinary panoramas from a variety of sources including the four prominent HK galleries specialising in historic photographs;

  4. The Black & White Collection: 8,000 Photographs with Original Negatives — The entire Archive has proved a resource in demand with publishers, museums, universities, and government agencies;

  5. The Colour Collection: 15,000 Transparencies — The Colour Collection contains over 15,000 transparencies chronicling not only the evolution of Hong Kong from an entrepȏt port to a leading world financial centre but also the broader span of Asia's history, arts and architecture;

  6. High-Resolution Digital Files (5,000) — High-resolution digital files form a vital part of the collection. Of the approximately 25,000 photographs comprising the overall Archive, over 5,000 images have already been digitized. This is an enormous cost-saving element, facilitating the building blocks for the print media and online access.

 

To process the Collection and make it available to Hong Kong and the world, HKU Libraries will:

  • Store, preserve, catalogue, digitise and maintain the Collection;

  • Create and update the Frank Fischbeck Collection in the Digital Repository@HKUL;

  • Utilize the Collection for contributing to society and academia through exhibitions, digital access and other means of nurturing interest in Hong Kong’s rich history; and, 

  • Ensure that the Collection remains a cultural asset for Hong Kong and the world for future generations.

 

About FormAsia Books

Having been incorporated in Hong Kong in 1975, the goal of FormAsia Books was to utilise superb photography and eloquent essays to document Asian life for a Western readership, with particular emphasis on Hong Kong.  FormAsia Books Managing Director Frank Fischbeck’s photographs have won him the Overseas Press Club of America citation for his work in China where he covered the Cultural Revolution and the ‘Ping Pong’ diplomacy prior to President Nixon’s arrival in Beijing.  He has continued to record and preserve Asia’s immense diversity in a range of publications after settling in Hong Kong in the 1970s.

As a photojournalist, it came as second nature to chronicle the city’s evolution as it unfolded before him over succeeding decades. Together with his extensive travels throughout the region, this has resulted in a collection of some 24,000 images that have recorded and preserved Hong Kong’s modern history as well as the immense diversity of Asia’s cultural heritage. 

Extending his career into publishing through FormAsia Books, Frank has also acquired and curated more than 1,200 sepia photographs that form part of the Archive, and which meticulously document Hong Kong’s history from 1860 to the 1960s, resulting in a visual record of the city’s evolution from its earliest years to the present day.  

This exhibition highlights a small segment of the collection based on Frank’s personal choices with his commentary provided for each image.

The exhibition is presented through six themes:

  1. The Early Years

  2. Occupation and Liberation of Hong Kong

  3. 1967 Disturbances 

  4. Air Land and Sea 

  5. Portraits 

  6. Path to 1997

The acquisition of the collection has been made possible through a series of very generous donations from benefactors eager to see the collection remain in Hong Kong, intact and based at HKU.

We are deeply indebted to the WYNG Foundation for their major donation and unprecedented support and to the Kadoorie Charitable Foundation.

Additional donors:

  • The Swire Group Charitable Trust

  • Ng Teng Fong Charitable Foundation Limited

  • Simon K Y Lee Foundation Limited.

Note: Captions provided by FormAsia Books