There are few photographers who have documented Hong Kong’s past in the way that Fan Ho did back in the late 40s and early 50s. Dubbed 'the Henri Cartier-Bresson of the East', Ho observed the then British Colony through his Roleiflex, producing iconic images that played with shape and form and captured people going about their daily lives.
Ho was born in Shanghai in 1931 and moved to Hong Kong at the age of 17. As such, while Hong Kong was always the city he called home, he was able to view it as an outsider. His work was predominantly black & white, but while Ho preferred to shoot with Kodak Tri-X and Plus-X, he was by no means a traditionalist. Ho considered film an equally important medium to stills photography, directing 27 films himself, and was always willing to experiment. “I hate to repeat myself. I’m still finding some new ways of seeing. A new approach, a new kind of experimentation,” he said.
|Approaching Shadow 1954.|
Between 1958 and 1965 he was named one of the top ten photographers of the world by the Photographic Society of America and received over 280 awards over his career.
I was lucky enough to speak to Fan Ho for an interview for Time Out Hong Kong back in 2014. He had produced a new book and exhibition of his work, images from his archive that had never been printed, digitally overlaid to produce multiple exposures, with sometimes serious and sometimes humorous results. Over an often poor quality internet call to his house in San Francisco, the 83-year-old spoke slowly but clearly in exceptionally good English. He was funny and self-deprecating; “I’m a simple-minded man,” he said. He admitted he had little knowledge of Photoshop and worked rather more as a director to produce his latest work but he clearly still maintained his passion.
In November 2014, Ho made a trip back to Hong Kong to open his new exhibition in the city and I had the opportunity to meet him in person. Though clearly tired by the busy schedule, he was still the sharp and entertaining man I had spoken to a few months earlier. He seemed truly grateful for all the coverage his work had received without an ounce of pomposity.
It will be his classic images of Hong Kong streets and fisherman for which Fan Ho will be remembered, but his career was full and varied. He was simultaneously a perfectionist and a rule breaker; a passionate photographer and a gentleman.
|Mat Gallagher is the former managing editor of Time Out Hong Kong and deputy editor of Amateur Photographer magazine. He has worked for a range of consumer titles in the UK, China and Hong Kong. He now writes about technology and travel. For more of his work visit www.matgallagher.com|
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