Gretchen So’s photo exhibition, “Hidden Narratives: Portraits of Resilience,” highlights the stories and contributions of HK’s migrant domestic helper community

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2nd September 2023 – (Hong Kong) A new photo exhibition in Hong Kong’s Shek Kip Mei district showcases the city’s domestic helper community in a bold, vibrant light. Captured during moments of joy and togetherness, the images provide an intimate glimpse into the lives of these indispensable migrant workers.

The exhibition, titled “Hidden Narratives: Portraits of Resilience in Hong Kong’s Migrant Domestic Helper Community”, is the work of photographer Gretchen So. Her colourful photos capture Indonesian and Filipino domestic helpers on their days off, socializing with friends and pursuing passions. Vibrant scenes of dance, religious celebration, entrepreneurship and community are depicted in So’s signature lively style.

So was driven to create the exhibition after noticing how domestic helpers are frequently portrayed in Hong Kong’s media. Reports tend to focus on the discrimination and challenges they face, including cramped living quarters, low wages, and separation from family. While acknowledging these hardships, So sought to capture another side to their experience – the joys, connections and aspirations that bloom during their precious window of weekly respite. Her photos are a celebration of the domestic helper community’s spirit and resilience.

Several photos capture the infectious energy these workers radiate on Sundays, their only day off. In one shot, a group dances enthusiastically on a path in Hong Kong’s Zoological and Botanical Gardens, decked out in glamorous rented costumes. Their performance evokes classic showmanship.

Other images highlight the community’s entrepreneurial spirit, such as an Indonesian woman running a make-up academy from her modest room. Domestic helpers are seen honing skills, building businesses, and gathering to share food, friendship and faith within their tight-knit community.

So’s photographs capture the warmth and generosity that blossoms, even in confined living spaces. Her images portray domestic helpers as multidimensional individuals with passions and purpose, not just as uniform-clad cleaners and carers.

Speaking at the opening of her exhibition at the non-profit arts space Lumenvisum, So expressed her hope that the portraits foster deeper public understanding. Domestic helpers contribute tirelessly to Hong Kong families, often while separated from their own. So’s vivid, affirmative photographs pay tribute to their resilience and spirit.

With discrimination still prevalent, exhibitions like ‘Hidden Narratives’ help build empathy and appreciation for these essential migrant workers. So’s intimate images look past uniforms and stereotypes to reveal the complex human stories of Hong Kong’s domestic helpers. Their dreams, generosity and community are wonderfully captured in this vibrant, affirmative showcase.

The exhibition titled “Hidden Narratives – Portraits of Resilience in Hong Kong’s Migrant Domestic Helper Community” can be seen at Lumenvisum, located at L2-02, Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre, 30 Pak Tin Street, Shek Kip Mei, until 24th September. To find out more details, please visit the website lumenvisum.org.