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Everybody watch your step

by Tory Ho

Tourism is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it brings in money and interest to a place. On the other, it brings bad attitudes, behaviour and congestion, amongst other things.

Photographer Tory Ho, originally from Hong Kong, is currently studying and in her final year of photography at Falmouth University, an institute in the UK well-known for its excellent courses.

Her ongoing project Everybody Watch Your Step explores the world of tourism, specifically looking at her personal experiences while travelling through Cambodia and her beautiful temples.

Here, I’m Tory. At home, I’m Hao Kiu. I’m from Hong Kong and currently in the United Kingdom, studying at Falmouth University in Cornwall.

Choosing to study in the United Kingdom was a no-brainer when I was looking at universities; the photography industry is remarkable here and hold a great number more opportunities than in Hong Kong.

There were several reasons I chose Falmouth over London too. Having lived in the city all my life, I really wanted to get away and try something new!

And I’m certainly glad that I did, it’s been a real joy being in a small town and I have adjusted so well that I am afraid of moving back into the city, with nowhere to run off to.

In my work I like to explore human behaviour, reactions, and politics. At the moment, I am really enjoying using the landscape to explore these ideas. I think my work would fall into the documentary genre, but I can’t really tell.

I like to think of myself just as a visual storyteller, telling stories in a way that would suit the story best.

What’s your story?

Well, I first picked up photography in my freshman year at high school. As many people have done, I picked up a camera and discovered a joy in shooting.

At the time, it was very much just about exploring potential career options and giving everything a try — and then I discovered Chase Jarvis, an American photographer and entrepreneur who gives lots of advice and makes inspirational videos on how to make it as a commercial photographer.

As soon as I found Chase’s work and learnt about his fantastic work ethic of giving it your all, I never stopped and I never looked back. I just knew that I had to keep going and keep learning. It was certainly at this point that I was inspired to become a photographer, to pick up a camera and just shoot.

This might be a scary question, but what are your plans post-graduation?

That really is a scary question. It’s February now and it won’t be long before graduation! I’ve been looking around for jobs in the UK. Ideally, I would stay here, continue networking, building my career, keep shooting, and then when the time’s right I’d go back to Hong Kong. Only in an ideal world though.

Tell us more about your featured work, Everybody Watch Your Step.

Everybody Watch Your Step is a project I began when I was in Cambodia. My friend and I visited most (if not all!) of the temples and at every temple there were, of course, tourists.

It was frustrating and quite depressing to see groups and groups of these people come and go, take pictures of the temples, waving their “selfie sticks” around — and then just leave.

Even when they were sat down at the temple, they’d be on their phones. It was just bizarre. If you’re travelling half-way across the world to visit some beautiful and historic temples, why on earth would you waste your time and money to be on your phone, to boast to your friends about where you are, and then just leave?

Essentially, this project looks at how tourists spent their time at the temples. It was also very much a spontaneous reaction to what I saw — less of a constructed or well-researched project.

You’ve now opened up your project to be an open, participatory project which anyone can submit to. Why did you decide to do this?

I find it extremely difficult to understand a story or an idea that’s told from just one perspective.

There is so much going on around each topic that it would be foolish to think only one person can tell an entire story and do it justice, which is why I decided to open it up.

Everyone has travelled at one point or another; when you leave home, your house, your sanctuary, you’re traveling somewhere.

By inviting audience participation, we can all connect with each other and hear each other’s stories and thoughts.

I have plans on continuing this project, but at the moment it has taken a step back as I work on my final project at university.

What inspires you?

What inspires me most is constantly looking, being outside, meeting new people, traveling and current affairs; being aware of what’s going on and understanding it is not just important, I think it’s very much a responsibility we all have.

And then when creating work, when you are aware of what’s going on around you, you can take that energy and knowledge into creating work that is well-informed.

What are you up to next?

I’m currently working on my final project at university. I’m looking at the messy political landscape in Britain — the post-Brexit scene. It’s exploring our emotional entanglement with politics.

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