Cover Wing Shya (Photo: Affa Chan)

The legendary Hong Kong director, who gained fame as Wong Kar-wai’s set photographer, has launched a new collection of more than 1,000 NFTs of classic Hong Kong movie scenes

Wing Shya is a man of few words but myriad emotions. The aesthetics and shoot idea for every photography project that he has worked on is determined by “the mood of the day”, he says. That includes his latest decision to jump into the world of NFTs. “I have a feeling that this [Web3 era] is the direction that the industry is moving towards,” he says.

It is this instinct that has led the fashion, film and art photographer and graphic designer to launch his first NFT series, Cryptyques. The project is the first in the world to focus on Hong Kong classic movies. Based on the theme “desire”, Shya selected 1,320 scenes from Hong Kong films: Patrick Tam’s 1981 thriller Love Massacre, the 1989 romance drama My Heart Is That Eternal Rose, the 1982 Leslie Cheung thriller Nomad, the 1982 action film by Terry Tong about a Hong Kong triad in Sai Ying Pun, and the 1981 crime drama Man on the Brink. These scenes are recreated in collaboration with art tech company Beam+ Lab as 3D-animated video clip NFTs, which were minted on Cryptyques’ website in mid-June.

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Shya reveals that his subsequent series will be themed around other emotions including fury, fear, joy, bitterness, hate and love. “Movies aren’t just about storytelling; they convey a lot of emotions,” he says. “Through these NFTs, I hope people remember the feelings and memories of when they [first] watched these old Hong Kong movies.”

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But the photographer clarifies that his project isn’t only about turning movie scenes into collectibles. “I want to expand these old and new Hong Kong movies into different art forms, like concerts and games,” he says. His team announced in early June that Cryptyques will encompass artist talks, movie screenings and exhibitions. There will also be a film society and community of cultural professionals established at Haus of Contemporary, a new five-floor creative hub comprising gallery spaces, a screening room and a café in Central.

To Shya, who grew up with Hong Kong New Wave films, a style of avant-garde cinematography in the 1970s and 1980s, working with Web3 evokes the same convention-defying experimentation. “The creative climate of the film industry back then was very memorable. I was still a teen, and I remember watching all these New Wave films and pondering the bold ways these directors were experimenting with on the visual styles,” he says. “[For instance], the way Leslie Cheung portrayed romantic relationships was ahead of his time.”

With the new Web3 wave that has gained popularity in the past two years, Shya thinks the way films are appreciated will be different. “I’m sure we’ll soon be able to watch movies in the virtual reality,” he says. “Even extracting and revisiting these old movie snippets feels different from watching the original. It’s a nostalgic process; at the same time, helping art enter the metaverse is a new experience.”

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