Each of Ka-Man Tse’s 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.
The artist’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.
Ka-Man Tse is a photographer, video artist, and educator. She received an MFA from Yale University and a BA from Bard College, and has exhibited her work at the Lianzhou Foto Festival, Guangdong, China; Para Site and Lumenvisum, Hong Kong; the 2016 Hong Kong Contemporary Film Festival; and Videotage’s Both Sides Now III: Final Frontiers, in Hong Kong, Taipei, Shanghai, and the UK. In the US, her work has been shown at the Museum of Chinese in America, New York; the Bronx Museum of the Arts; the New York Public Library; the Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, California; Cornell University, Ithaca, New York; Capricious gallery, New York; the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center; the Silver Eye Center for Photography, Pittsburgh; and the Eighth Veil, Los Angeles. Tse was a SPARC artist in residence through the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and completed the Artist in the Marketplace Program through the Bronx Museum of the Arts. She is the recipient of the 2014–15 Robert Giard Fellowship, and a 2017–18 Yale University Fund for Lesbian and Gay Studies Research Award. In spring 2018, her photographs were featured in Queering Space at Alfred University, Alfred, New York, and at the WMA Masters exhibition, Transition, in Hong Kong, and she is cocurating Daybreak: New Affirmations in Queer Photography at the Leslie-Lohman Museum, New York, opening in June 2018. Tse’s first monograph, narrow distances, will be published by Candor Arts in July 2018. She teaches at Yale University and Parsons. Visit her website at tsewhat.com.
About the Aperture Portfolio Prize
The purpose of the Aperture Portfolio Prize 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.