Fan Ho is an award-winning photographer, film director, and actor known for his black-and-white photographs documenting Hong Kong between transitions in the 1950s and 1960s.Read More
Born in Shanghai, China, Fan Ho relocated to Hong Kong in 1949 with his family. Initially separated from his parents, Ho shot his first images with a small Brownie left behind by his father, capturing a blossoming Hong Kong in the early 1950s and 1960s as it transitioned from a trading port to a major metropolitan centre.
A self-taught photographer, Ho's early images were developed in the family bathtub and showed candid images of street vendors and children, documenting the city's urban life across streets, back alleys, and markets. Later photographs were taken using a twin-lens Rolleiflex, gifted to him at the age of 18. Ho would use the same Rolleiflex K4A throughout his working life.
Fan Ho's photographs are often associated with the Bauhaus movement because of their sharp contrasts and geometrically composed sparse bit of skyscrapers sighted through the veil of smoke. The grainy photographs often present a sense of narrative and place through backlit effects or smoke and light.
'Approaching Shadow', Hong Kong (1954) is a monochrome photograph showing Ho's cousin leaning against a wide wall, approached from the profile, eyes cast downwards. To the picture, Ho added a diagonal shadow cutting through the background, alluding to the fading away of her youth.
In 'Journey to Uncertainty', Hong Kong (1956), an elongated person walks away from the viewer, bag and cane in hand. The figure is shown travelling through a narrow back alley, away from cobblestone pavement, towards the aftermath of development.
Similarly, 'Children's Paradise', Hong Kong (1959) is set in the backstreets of Hong Kong. The monochrome photograph shows three children running from the camera, framed by lines of laundry from above. The light catches on the white garments and falls over the figures. In the lower-right corner, an elderly man and four other children rest seated on wooden crates, three facing the photographer. They look into the camera unbothered.
Fan Ho joined Shaw Brothers in 1961 as a continuity assistant for The Swallow (1961) before taking on acting roles for the studio, portraying characters like the Monk in the Journey to the West series. He then moved on to make his own short films, prompted by the similarity between the mediums and the ease in translation of the photographer's already highly dramatic scenes to moving image.
In 1969, Ho left Shaw Brothers, going on to produce over 20 films over the course of his career in Hong Kong and in Taiwan, three of which featured at the International Film Festivals of Cannes, Berlin, and San Francisco.
Fan Ho wrote Thoughts on Street Photography in 1959 at the age of 28. The compilation of essays details schools of thought, approaches to the medium, and offers guidance for creating interesting compositions, while locating the artist's own work within the spectrum.
Portraits of Hong Kong, published after the artist's death in 2016, gathers 153 photographs selected from 500 negatives showing highly realistic and documentary images capturing Hong Kong's streets. These photographs deviate from the photographer's signature style, from an awareness of the market's preference for more abstract and aesthetically poignant compositions.
Fan Ho has won over 280 awards since 1956, while lecturing about photography and filmmaking at 12 universities in Taiwan and in Hong Kong.
Ho was a Fellow of the Photographic Society of America, the Royal Photographic Society and the Royal Society of Arts in England, and an Honorary Member of the Photographic societies of Singapore, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, France, Italy, and Belgium.
In 2015, Ho was the recipient for the Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2nd Global Chinese International Photography Award, from the Chinese Photographic Society.
Fan Ho's work has shown widely worldwide across Asia, Europe, and the United States.
Select solo exhibitions include Rediscover and Restructure, Art and Sensuality in Fan Ho's Cinema, Blue Lotus, Hong Kong (2021); Portrait of Hong Kong, Blue Lotus Gallery, Hong Kong (2019); ON THE STAGE OF LIFE, M97 Gallery, Shanghai (2016); A Hong Kong Memoir, Modernbook Gallery, San Francisco (2015); The Living Theatre, Modernbook Gallery, San Francisco (2009); and HONG-KONG 1952—1964, Laurence Miller Gallery, New York (2006).
Recent group exhibitions include WITHOUT A WORD, The Polygon Gallery, Vancouver (2017); AFTERWORK, Para Site, Hong Kong (2016); 10th Angkor Photo Festival (2014); 5th Daegu Photo Biennale (2014); THIRTY Years, Laurence Miller Gallery, New York (2014); and Licht-Schreiben, Forum for Photography, Cologne (2009).
The artist's website can be found here.
Elain YJ Zheng | Ocula | 2021