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Monday, Apr 22, 2024

Colourful past: AI software turns old Hong Kong photo into Central Market display

Colourful past: AI software turns old Hong Kong photo into Central Market display

Original black and white photo of two fishmongers behind market counter restored, colourised using software trained by processing millions of images.

A tattered photo of a fish stall at Hong Kong’s Central Market from the 1950s has been restored using artificial intelligence-based software and turned into a life-size wall display at the 84-year-old building to mark the second anniversary of its reopening.

The original black and white photo provided by the Hong Kong Museum of History featured two fishmongers standing behind a counter piled with chopped-up fish, the Urban Renewal Authority said.

The life-size restored image, laid out on the wall of a restored fish stall on the market’s ground floor, was unveiled to the public on Monday.

“The picture was very tattered and blurry when I first received it,” said Victor Wong Wang-tat, the award-winning digital and special effects artist who lead the authority’s restoration project.

The original photograph featuring two fishmongers selling their wares at the Central Market.


Wong and his team trained the AI-based restorative software using millions of photographs, teaching the system how to fill in any blanks or damage to the image to create a highly detailed, colourised version.

“You can see everything, from the words at the top of the stall, the colour of the wooden buckets in the back, details on the fish skins and flesh and the features of the fishmonger’s face,” Wong said. “A milk can used to store change and tools for preparing the fish was also made clear.”

However, one of the fishmongers from the original photo was removed for the blown-up image.

Wong explained the second man was taken out as part of plans for an interactive installation based on the picture, which would launch at the Central Market from August.

The authority said details on the coming installation would be released at a later date.

It added that the Bauhaus-style Central Market was first opened in 1939 and was once the largest meat market in the region.

The venue was shut down in 2003 as part of plans for it to be sold by the government for commercial development. Authorities later opted to preserve the site in 2009 in response to public outcry, reopening it in 2021 after a HK$500 million (US$193.1 million) makeover.

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