One of the delights of a visit to Hong Kong for keen photographers — especially Leica fans — has been Douglas So’s iconic f11 museum and gallery in Yuk Sau Street in Happy Valley. When I was last in Hong Kong I visited the second of Douglas’s ventures, the f22 Foto Space, a short ding-ding tram ride away in Wan Chai.
Douglas’s latest venture, the f22 Peninsula, has now opened right in the heart of Tsim She Tsui an area spreading home t many photographic dealers. It is part of the impressive Peninsula Arcade in Nathan Road, with access via Salisbury Road.
If you are planning to visit Hong Kong, you shouldn’t miss the f22 and, also, a trip to Happy Valley to the original f11 — houses in a rather amazing 1930s Art Deco villa — is an absolute must. But check with the website for opening times.
f22 Peninsula – home of the finest vintage cameras for collectors and photography connoisseurs
Is it a vintage cameras shop? Is it a museum? Or is it a photo gallery? The short answer is that the new f22 Peninsula is a delightful marriage of all three, bringing together an exquisite collection of vintage cameras and well-curated photo-art to complement the proud heritage of the Peninsula Hotel.
Opened in February 2020 and occupying two corner spaces in the prestigious Peninsula Arcade, the new shop and gallery provide a striking second home for the original f22 foto space in Wanchai (www.f22.com), which since 2017 has hosted successful exhibitions by celebrated local and overseas photographers including Jing Huang, Simon Go, Palani Mohan, Elliott Erwitt, Wing Chan, Michel Eisenlohr, Yan Kallen, Sergey Melnitchenko, Mar Sáez and Martin Parr, as well as winning a number of awards for its innovative design.
It is also a sister establishment to F11 Foto Museum in Happy Valley (www.f11.com), opened in 2014, inside a lovingly-restored three-storey graded Art Deco building from the 1930s. Together, f22 foto space and F11 Foto Museum – both named after aperture settings on camera lenses – now offer a special and unforgettable experience for visitors and collectors from all over the world.
Designed by LAAB Architects, f22 Peninsula brings people back to the 1920s, an era that marked the prevalence of Art Deco, the birth of Modernism in art and architecture, and more importantly, the opening of the Peninsula Hotel and the birth of the first Leica camera.
Inside the 16-meter-long shop window, visitors are greeted by a stunning circular reception crafted with brass countertop inspired by the film counter of Leica I Model A. Hovering above the counter centrepiece is an exquisite brass ceiling lamp crafted following the Leica Elmar lens from the late 1920s vintage, honouring the opening of the Peninsula Hotel in the same era.
In keeping with the modern and artisanal spirit of the Art Deco, the ceiling, flooring, and furniture in f22 Peninsula were made of carefully selected dark hardwood imbued with well-crafted mouldings and bespoke brass details. Together, the design creates a warm, homey and cosy space akin to the relaxing and exclusive ambience of an English private club.
A highlight of the f22 Peninsula is the heritage display of the remains from a broken column in the 1930s. With the help of conservation experts, this special moulding feature made of layers of white plaster and wood is now conserved in a bespoke glass and wood cabinet.
The shop is divided into three zones, each with its distinctive character. There is a gallery of vintage cameras and lenses, being some of the rarest and best examples from around the world – all of which are for sale to discerning and well-heeled collectors. Many are from the highly-prized German brand Leica, but other famous brands such as Rollei and Hasselblad are also well represented.
Another centrepiece is a huge ‘Fake Leica’ camera art piece built by Chinese artist, Liao Yibai. Other examples of ‘Fake Leica’ in this size exist in very limited quantity (including one at F11), but this is the only version worldwide plated in 24-carat gold leaf.
The shop also provides a wide selection of limited edition cameras sourced from all over the world. The camera accessories offered are amongst the best on the market, often hand-crafted by the most experienced artisans from countries including Italy, Japan and the USA. All display items are carefully curated in walls of wood and glass cabinets with ERCO lightings, just like how valuable artefacts are displayed in museums.
Founder and owner of f22 and F11, Douglas So, says the highly selective and well-curated collection reflects not only the most notable camera models but also the finest examples of their vintage – “we aspire to be the best and most beautiful vintage camera shop in the world. We offer rare and exquisite pieces sourced from different countries to our clients and customers. We hope that they not only find their favourite pieces here, but their special experience would help enhance their appreciation for vintage cameras and photography.”
There is a special VIP area for distinguished guests, who will enjoy privacy and comfort while having a closer look at their favourite pieces. Museum pieces of the highest quality are on display for the enjoyment of our VIPs. The room was designed with a collection of vintage furniture tastefully sourced worldwide, including a carved oak bench from the 1920s, a brass chandelier and Thonet armchairs from the 1930s, and a contemporary version of the iconic Club 1910 sofa, to name just a few. There is also a transformable privacy screen designed to adjust the visibility of the room from the arcade.
The coupling photo gallery in the basement arcade, on the contrary, has a minimalist modern design, featuring white walls, concrete flooring, and a black-tinted mirror ceiling, making a visual connection to the contemporary design of the f22 foto space in Wan Chai. The basement gallery also has an open shopfront to engage hotel guests and visitors. A delicate monogram of f22 is hung on the wall with a back-lit octagon glow. Every night, the gallery is secured by a black-painted steel shutter gate — a contemporary reinterpretation of Hong Kong’s traditional craft commonly found in local shops.
Visitors will be able to enjoy photo exhibitions all year round, and the prints on display are available for purchase. The inaugural show is Emotional Architecture, which is a solo exhibition of the renowned Mexican photographer Armando Salas Portugal, featuring his rare vintage prints on the legendary architectural works by the Mexican iconic architect, Luis Barragán.