Ka-Man Tse is Aperture’s 2018 Portfolio Prize Winner
Every year, Aperture organizes the Portfolio Prize, open to Aperture magazine print subscribers and which purpose is to identify high-quality work by new voices in contemporary photography. When choosing the first-prize winner and runners-up, Aperture’s editorial and curatorial staff look for innovative bodies of work that haven’t been widely seen in major publications or exhibition venues.
This year’s recipient is Ka-Man Tse, whose carefully orchestrated images suggests an oblique narrative. Her protagonists appear in quiet moments of introspection: A young woman leans contemplatively over the railing of a curved bridge. Two men embrace in a moment of connection contrasted against the imposing Hong Kong skyline, spiked with vertiginous towers. A gender-nonconforming individual regards themself in a mirror that doubles their likeness—suggesting the complexity of identity and that we all contain many selves. If each image offers a fragment of a narrative, rendered in luminous light and subtle casts of color, Tse’s series as a whole is grounded in concrete concerns.
Ka-Man Tse’s focus is on the intersection of Asian and Pacific Islander and LGBTQ communities. As she writes in her project statement, “In the contested and contingent spaces in the home, in the public realm, occupying a space and a conversation is an act. Possibilities start with small gestures, clear or coded… They are made out of a need to occupy the landscape, space, and frame.”
By using film and a view camera, Tse has chosen a slow, deliberative process. The care with which she makes her images and regards her subjects – who collaborate in the act of picture making – is self-evident. They appear luminous in their bedrooms or outside in New York and Hong Kong’s public spaces. Conversation is an act, yes. But here, in these restrained images, it is the act of framing and photographing her own community, on their own terms, as they wish to be seen, that brings her friends and subjects into incandescent visibility.