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The last of its kind

Updated: Jun 27

You guys are probably tired of hearing the domino effects from covid-19 by now. Sorry to disappoint you guys but this is another post dedicated to document and preserve the humble history of this decade old business. It is such a great loss to all of us as an effect from the pandemic.  


Beginning of this month, I was honoured to be invited to document this legendary 56 years old saloon. Thinking that the photo should both be impactful and memorable at the same time, I knew I had to approach this project with an environment portrait in mind. The whole experience photographing this saloon was phenomenal. Started with walking into the saloon. It felt like I was passing through a time machine back to the 60s. Observing all the small details from "handmade braided curtain" hanging at the window to the hood-style hair dryer pod from the Japanese era to wooden storage boxes, old magazines and comics, and so on. I cannot express how excited I am being able to see this again. (My grandma was also a hairdresser but has close down her saloon before I was grown up enough to appreciate all this yet alone photograph it).


This legendary saloon named Kim Fong Saloon was located in the heart of Bukit Mertajam, Penang. This saloon from the 60s was run by 83 years old grandma, Wu Jin Feng (吳進鳳) who spend most of her youth in the industry. At first glance, it does look like just another ordinary old saloon but little did I know it was packed with tons of interesting history. Starting from scratch, Miss Wu had to endure hardship in the process of apprenticeship like all the other industry those days. During the apprenticeship years, she had to work for very long hours with low pay (as low as 10 ringgit a month). To make things worse, half of her salary was also "detained" by her employer as a collateral to prevent her from giving up half way.


She recalled it was in year 1964 that this saloon was first established. She managed to rent this old shop with the help of her husband and name it Kim Fong Saloon. The saloon's name was a combination of both her husband (Kim) and her name (Fong). What makes this decade old saloon stood out even more uniquely was the fact that throughout its operation it only serves female guest. Her legacy includes serving the all time famous HK actress Nancy Sit (薛家燕) and Fung Bo Bo (馮寶寶) back then when they were performing in Penang.


It is really heart wrenching to see such a business which was built from scratch cease its operation. As we bid goodbye to this saloon, what remains are the story and images that preserve the essence of memory and time waiting to be share as an inspiration to the next generation. While I was writting this story, I do only have one hope which is for this kind of treasure to be better preserved and made known to the public in the coming years.  

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