Cover Beautiful Chaos (2021), a portrait photograph of Anastaciia Koll taken by Jada Poon

Hong Kong photographer Jada Poon brings out the softer side in her powerful subjects to show how similar we all are in our hopes, fears and desires

In the summer of 2020, Jada Poon held an exhibition of photos she had taken of ten influential Hong Kong women, displayed alongside written accounts of a poignant moment in their lives. Poon, a photographer and creative director, excels at depicting women in a way that not only conveys sensuality and softness, but also strength and spirit. She started her #RealWomen project in 2016 to share stories of women from the city and, in the years since, the collection has become a space for people to connect and empathise with each other.

Her intention, she says, is to “show a vulnerability that encourages others to pursue their own meaning in life and shows them how similar we are ultimately: in the way we fall and restore, in the way we experience love and fear, hope and insecurities.”

​For the above photograph, taken at the height of the pandemic, Poon used the inspiration of “beautiful chaos” to capture model Anastasiia Koll, fuelled by “the desire to share a message of going inwards for strength and anchoring [oneself] amid external chaos”, the artist says. “In the past two years, while many of us battled an internal pandemic as well as a global pandemic, I have felt driven to create a space of connection and resonance. When we feel seen and recognised, we also become stronger in our unity.”

Here, in her own words, Poon describes where she finds inspiration and the causes that drive her.

You're reading Through Her Lens, our series showcasing the female visual viewpoint—and launched in partnership with The Women's Foundation, which strives to challenge gender stereotypes, empower women in poverty, and increase the number of women in leadership roles

I have always been fascinated with finding ways to express and connect through art. As a child, I would draw under my bedsheets after lights-out, creating characters and stories in my mind. During my teenage years, I channelled my desire to express into fashion design and went to fashion school. After going to law school and qualifying as a lawyer, I slowly discovered that my desire to tell stories and connect with people through creating translated beautifully into photography. It has transformed me immensely in the way I’m able to connect directly with people through it; how I am inspired by stories of people I seek out and encounter; and how it has taught and trained me to see the world and humanity in the best light (literally and figuratively) and, through that, bringing impact and hope into others’ lives.

I held my exhibition, “Not a Superwoman”, at The Landmark in 2020 to share the stories of ten women in Hong Kong. The title “Not a Superwoman” explores going beyond the surface of women who appear to be successful and are outwardly portrayed as ‘superwomen’. It aims to explore our shared humanity—that behind every ‘successful’ appearance are essentially the same fears and insecurities, hopes and desires, falling and restoring—manifested in different forms and stories.

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Real beauty is encountered when we recognise that beyond all the excess noise and surface, what is in others is also in you. Out of that, may we gain the love and courage to be vulnerable, compassionate and simply human. “And the ocean taught her to drown in all the things bigger than herself. The ocean loved her and knew everything that made her. And over time she’d walk to the shore, she’d smile at the ocean because the waves told her story.” This line from a poem inspired me to think about the way we walk ourselves home, as we return to the essence of our being as women, as we bravely confront the truths in our soul, and learn to embrace our journey and the way we are becoming. 

Read more: How the Only Female Neon Artist in Hong Kong Is Reinventing the Craft

All my concepts, projects and ideas all stem from one word: healing. Through photography and storytelling, I aspire to create a space for people to connect (inwardly and outwardly), so that we are brought to embrace our imperfect humanity and journey as a woman and, through that, live wholesomely. I hope my work shows a vulnerability that encourages others to pursue their own meaning in life, and shows them how similar we are, ultimately, in the way we fall and restore; in the way we experience love and fear, hope and insecurities.

I started the #RealWomen series to share stories of women in our city. Aside from healing, [the subject of] women was also placed into my heart when I worked as a volunteer on anti-human trafficking work in Asia, and inspired by women mentors that I have walked with in the past. One time, when I came back from Cambodia working with an NGO, I realised even though the situation in Hong Kong is very different from Cambodia, the way we hurt and need healing is very similar, as women, as human beings. And with a heart for healing growing in me, where else better to start than my very home city? The project has developed to capture many different stories and relationships of women in our city, and through that I have encountered so many women whose journeys have inspired and moved me immensely.

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