New York Stories

A Borough's Tale
The Photography of Guillermo Hung
By Jeff Gangemi

Guillermo Hung has always been the main attraction. As a Chinese Venezuelan Salsa saxophonist, he turned the restaurant that he inherited from his family into the one and only Chinese restaurant/ live salsa bar in Caracas , Venezuela . He became the face of his band and his restaurant - an intriguing anomaly with obvious talent. Simultaneously, he turned himself into a local celebrity. Still, he knew he was ignoring a love that he had found so many years ago, and he decided he couldn't waste it on a life inherited from his parents.
Guillermo emigrated to the U.S. in October of 2002 and reached his final destination in May of 2003. He had been here before, however. It was in America that he took his first photography classes at community college in New Jersey as a way to force himself to learn English. Though these classes served an immediate purpose, they planted a seed that would take years to germinate and grow. After all, he had come to attend the Berklee School of Music, which he did from 1990 until 1994, before returning home to Venezuela to achieve his fame in the music and restaurant scene.
His present undertaking brings him back to the forefront, only this time he stands behind the camera to capture his world through a unique lens. Guillermo's world consists of small things - the storefronts, the eclectic mix of people, the sights of a New York not seen by most. It's a New York colored unmistakably by his diverse background, a New York filtered through three languages. Of his art, Guillermo speaks philosophically, "I believe the picture only begins to speak after you take it. It belongs to itself. It offers its own interpretation, or misinterpretation."

He believes that many times the significance of the photograph grows with the observer, though it seems easy to find significance in Guillermo's work. His talent lies in his eye for light and composition coupled with a fierce talent and intuition developed through years of observation.
The reality he portrays through photography is one of everyday people - shopkeepers and children, many Latino, as well as storefronts and street scenes, all meant to capture that special gritty quality that typifies the nether regions of the city. He says, "I'm trying to show reality, but not the news."

Guillermo believes that the youth are tired of politics all the time. He sees people coming "back to the street, protesting, playing music, tap dancing. This is what's going on in New York . People feel like they're being violated. Maybe they don't realize it, but from the guts there's some change."
He believes that only in New York can you get the kind of education that he is getting. He's working as a photographic assistant and learning the ins and outs of the business while shooting scores of his own shots.
His goal from here is to master the art of digital photography through all of the old skills common to film. Now, he's looking to make a name for himself and once again transplant himself into his own world, living on his own terms.
Photography by Guillermo Hung © 2004

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