ArtScopeTO 09: Interview with Photographer Pengkuei Ben Huang

May 8, 2019 | By

There’s rarely a shortage of things to see in Toronto – movies, plays, blooming flowers, foodfests – and this month’s Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival features another wave of photographers using still images to convey places, people, and strong messages.


Photographer Pengkuei Ben Huang at Toronto’s Urban Gallery.


It’s timely that Pengkuei Ben Huang’s series SOLEMN PINES FADING THINGS is part of the festival, with our own government fighting against bull-headed premieres refusing to participate in the federal carbon pricing plan.

The court battles are more about politics and egos in an election year (and shoring up existing egos for the next provincial elections) than giving a damn about the environment, and far sobering arguments about the impact of climate change comes from both scientists and ordinary people facing the realities of human activities gone bad – hence the recent UN report that a chunk of nature is, ostensibly, doomed.

Huang’s documentation is rooted in reality – capturing the changes after the disastrous tsunami and Fukushima nuclear mess that struck Japan in 2011 – and is bereft of the politics that dilute, distract, and delay meaningful action to help the environment, even on a local level.


Some of the most striking images in Ben Huang’s series SOLEMN PINES SILENT THINGS are accompagnied by poignant comments.


The images are eerie, sometimes ominous, and require a bit of concentration: the central elements of a concrete slab, abandoned bicycles, vacant lots, and a field of sunflowers may be the initial draw, but their placement and the surrounding light, clouds, and contrast between singular bright colours and brooding grey matter are what resonate.


Ben Huang chatting with’s K.J. Mullins


Photo courtesy of Glenda Fordham at Fordham P.R.


Huang’s series conveys messages of devastation, hope, tragedy, resilience, and never underestimating the power of nature, even in a state unadulterated by humans.

Although based in Toronto, his travels and time in Asia and the U.S. reinforce the need to proactive, and the risk of heavy flooding remains very real in Toronto; if water levels approach dangerously high levels again, both the islands and the beaches are at risk, and yet the city keeps stalling action, the province ignores its share of responsibility, and major residential towers are still planned and being erected close to the problematic lakeshore.

Hurricanes and earthquakes are rare in Toronto, but stupidity does lap against reason in civic and provincial legislatures, and the biggest noise doesn’t erupt from affirmative action, but political verbiage designed to divert proactive measures.

Ben Huang’s SOLEMN PINES FADING THINGS runs May 2-31 at Toronto’s Urban Gallery, 400 Queen St. East, from April 6th to Sat. April 27th, 2019.

My podcast is up on GooglePlay, iTunes, Libsyn, SoundCloud, Stitcher, YouTube [to follow], and a visual version on my Instagram IGTV channel [to follow]. Additional coverage is available from Fordham P.R. and K.J. Mullins at

Thanks for reading,



Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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Category: EDITOR'S BLOG, INTERVIEWS, podcast

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