Whether a striking first impression or an impact transcending generations, photographs have a unique power to inspire, narrating endless stories through each pixel.
Lensational, a global photography initiative founded by social entrepreneur Bonnie Chiu, was formed in 2013 out of the need to tell such stories. A Hong Konger of Indonesian heritage, Bonnie realised the importance of photography from a young age, through her grandmother, an Indonesian refugee, whose illiteracy meant she relied heavily on images as a way of learning about the world.
Through Lensational, Bonnie – herself a fierce advocate of gender equality – aimed to provide photography training to underrepresented women and create a platform for them to share their work – and their stories – through their pictures. Since then, it has grown into a global tour de force, counting people from more than 20 countries across Asia and Africa as their members and volunteers.
Run by a core team of volunteers – Rachel, Leeh Ann, Felicia and Alex – the Hong Kong branch of Lensational has been serving the city’s migrant community for the past 8 years. Its members are primarily domestic workers, a group which, despite representing more than 5% of the city’s total population, often struggle to make themselves heard in Hong Kong.
“The hardest part is realising that most people don't see us beyond our status, no matter how we behave or how hard we work. I want my photography to break that barrier, to show others what we can do and make us ‘visible’ to all.”
– Leeh Ann, Lensational HK Volunteer & Domestic Worker
Sharing much in common with Pangyao’s own philosophy, Lensational off ers its members a much-needed voice through photography, while also helping educate the local population about the diverse cultures and customs of migrant workers in Hong Kong. Through this, they strive to break the stigma often associated with being a domestic worker.
The Lensational team (which also includes some male members) hosts regular photo walks around Hong Kong, giving attendees the chance to visit new parts of the city or to explore familiar territory through a new perspective. Whether you’re an experienced photographer or just starting out on your journey, everyone is welcome on these walks, which take around three hours. It offers participants a chance to exchange ideas, share photography tips and have fun in a relaxed setting. Details of their upcoming events can be found on their Facebook page; you can also message the team directly for more information.
Lensational launched their latest project, Academy 2021: Visualising Social Justice, in June this year. A structured programme, it provides 30 female domestic workers training across a range of disciplines, including photography, video and digital marketing, along with lectures and information related to social justice. An exhibition and video screenings from the programme will be launched in December; further details to follow on their Facebook page.