Skip to main content

Hong Kong in Lego form? Everything about these photos is awesome

By Karla Cripps and Hiufu Wong, CNN
updated 11:00 PM EDT, Sun April 13, 2014
Legography creator Ric Tse's "Sweet Memories" features a Lego van covered in signs and menus from a photo he took of an actual Hong Kong Mister Softee truck. Locals have a soft spot for these moving ice cream purveyors, which have been around since the 1970s. Legography creator Ric Tse's "Sweet Memories" features a Lego van covered in signs and menus from a photo he took of an actual Hong Kong Mister Softee truck. Locals have a soft spot for these moving ice cream purveyors, which have been around since the 1970s.
HIDE CAPTION
Perfect pair: Lego and nostalgia
Lego love
Rubber duck fever
Horseplay
Tse's 'biggest challenge'
Mini Marathon
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Hong Kong photographer Ric Tse's "Legography" series features toy people, props, photos
  • Tse's images inspired by everyday Hong Kong scenes, such as the iconic skyline and luxury shoppers
  • Legography exhibition now on at Hong Kong's Picture This gallery

(CNN) -- Maybe we've seen "The LEGO Movie" too many times.

But we couldn't help breaking into an enthusiastic rendition of "Everything is Awesome" when we came across these Hong Kong-themed Lego photos by 36-year-old photographer Ric Tse.

Made by combining Lego minifigures, props and images, Tse's "Legography" series captures the spirit of Hong Kong in toy form, whether it's Louis Vuitton-toting shoppers, a Chinese lion dance or punters checking out the betting prospects at the horse track.

Some come with a side of social commentary that perhaps only a local would recognize, such as "Rubber Duck Fever" or "June Fourth Vigil," both featured in the above gallery.

MORE: How to interpret a Chinese lion dance

Inspired by the streets

Tse, a freelance photographer with a full-time gig in property management, says inspiration usually strikes when he's out shooting photos of daily life in Hong Kong.

"During the shoot, whenever I capture something interesting I think, 'Would it work with Lego?' If that's a yes, I'll just do it."

Turns out, Tse wasn't even a big Lego fan when he started out.

"It was during an annual cleanup that my girlfriend, now wife, found an old box of Lego," says Tse, who produced his first Lego-based photograph in 2010.

"I had never played with Lego bricks before and found it interesting. I held a tiny figure and thought, if I could use this in my photography it would be interesting as well. That's where the concept came from.

"Since then, it's evolved to focus on people, incidents and things with a unique Hong Kong flair."

Four years on, he's created 30-some Leography images.

If you're thinking about befriending Tse in the hopes of getting invited over to play with his massive Lego stash, bad news. Your kids likely have a more impressive collection than he does.

"I probably only have five or six boxes of Lego. But because of Legography, I've quite a library of figures -- about 80 of them."

MORE: Hong Kong's hardest vendors go soft and teach us how to bargain

Creating awesomeness isn't easy

Tse says getting the background of his photos to look realistic takes time and experience.

"The ones that are taken in an actual outdoor scene with Lego figures -- it takes about a week to plan, prepare and buy props," he says.

"The second type are taken at home with a background image taken by me.

"The production process includes taking photos from the actual location, buying the props and setting up the shooting scene at home.

"As it is more complicated, it usually takes about two weeks."

MORE: Remembering Kowloon Walled City

Piece of your heart? Ric Tse\'s \
Piece of your heart? Ric Tse's "Sweet Memories."

For example, his "Sweet Memories" image features a Lego van that he's covered in signs and menus from a photo of an actual Hong Kong Mister Softee truck.

The photo is sure to hit locals with a vanilla-flavored cone of nostalgia, as these once popular moving ice cream purveyors have been around since the 1970s.

His "June Fourth Vigil" image, a recreation of the annual commemoration of those killed in Tiananmen Square, was his most challenging work to date.

"It took me three weeks," he says.

"I wanted to create the special candle vigil effects, so I bought some tiny LED light bulbs and parts. Then, I studied how to light them up from the Internet.

"It was also a lot of work to set up the scene as I had to find ways to hide the wires."

MORE: Is "Affordable Art" really all that affordable?

"We had a crowd around his photos all weekend"

Tse's Legography photos are currently on display at the city's Picture This gallery.

Founder Christopher Bailey says it was an easy decision to exhibit the pics, as the venue seeks to promote young Hong Kong photographers who may otherwise struggle to find outlets for their work.

In \
In "Victory!" Tse commemorates the annual Chairman's Sprint Prize.

"We feel that Ric is very clever and insightful and captures in a very unusual and creative way the essential spirit of Hong Kong," says Bailey.

"He is of that 1980s generation who are concerned about the direction Hong Kong is taking and often feel unable to make their voices heard properly.

"Ric's photography and Legography is his very creative outlet to show his views."

The response to Legography has been huge, he adds.

"At the recent Affordable Art Fair, held last month, we had a crowd around his photos all weekend and sold them extremely successfully. We were pleased that the buyer profile was so broad, from kids to retirees and of all nationalities."

Bailey says the gallery doesn't limit how long a photographer's work is on display so there are no plans to remove Ric's exhibition any time soon, though it's a popular series and prints are selling fast.

"They are limited editions and we anticipate that some of them will sell out quite quickly. One image has already sold over 20 pieces from an edition of 30."

Picture This, 212, 2/F, Prince's Building, Central, Hong Kong; +852 2525 2803; open Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tse's 20" x 13" Legography prints (edition of 30) cost HK$3,000 ($386) each. Smaller works of 12" x 8" (edition of 100) go for HK$1,200 ($154).

MORE: The best way to experience Hong Kong? Climb aboard one of its iconic trams

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 1:56 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
From Maastricht to Melbourne, these itineraries make bookish travelers look stylish.
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Tue July 29, 2014
Good cocktails combine with spectacular views across rivers, cityscapes and oceans at these bird-level drinkeries.
updated 2:09 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
A California homeowner's nightmare has become a cautionary tale for those who rent their homes to strangers.
updated 10:26 PM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Cinema loves portraying the lives of expats. Sometimes it gets it right. Sometimes it casts Nick Nolte as a jungle king.
updated 9:17 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Don't be intimidated, says a local expert. Here's how to do China without the hassles
updated 8:33 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
When your city has an unenviable reputation for insulting tourists and fleecing them for every cent, inviting hotel guests to pay what they want could be a risky move.
updated 3:10 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
1937 Auto Union V16 Streamliner, Audi Museum, Germany
With factory tours and collections of stunning vintage prototypes, southern Germany is petrolhead paradise.
updated 9:44 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Every tourist destination has a flip side, a season when prices go down and savvy, flexible travelers can score big savings.
updated 3:11 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
A Marrakech lamp bazaar
Morocco's Red City is crammed with stunning gardens, shaded souks and steamy bath houses.
updated 12:52 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Santo Stefano Island, Italy
Pristine beaches, unspoiled nature and few tourists -- a stretch on these former penal colonies is no longer a punishment.
updated 5:23 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Life in Joburg can be stressful. Luckily there are some exceedingly non-stressful places close by.
updated 5:07 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Istanbul skyline
CNN's Ivan Watson pays homage to the city he's called home for the past 12 years.
China notches up another superlative achievement as a Nanjing-based artist creates the world's largest and longest anamorphic painting.
updated 4:02 PM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
In what is undoubtedly the world's "coolest" surf video, photographer Chris Burkhard endures freezing temperatures, blizzards and injury to capture Arctic waves and their riders.
updated 11:39 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Few airline routes are as cutthroat as the one that travels between London and New York. It is the world's busiest route and there are few lengths airlines won't go to in the hopes of getting a piece of the action.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT