Fan Ho's touching Portrait of Hong Kong shows a lifetime of love for capturing the region
This spring, an exhibition at the Blue Lotus Gallery will showcase the last ever body of work by the celebrated and much-loved photographer and film director, Fan Ho.
Born in Shanghai in 1931, Fan Ho delved into photography at the early age of 14 when he started taking pictures with a Kodak Brownie camera of his Father. Later, at the age of 18, his father bought him a twin lens Rolleiflex camera with which he took all his award-winning photographs.
In 1949, Fan Ho’s parents moved to Hong Kong where the young Fan Ho continued pursuing his passion for photography, in particular for street photography. Dubbed the 'Cartier-Bresson of the East’, Fan Ho’s works earned him close to 300 local and international photography awards and titles. His talent was also discovered by the film industry where he started out as an actor before moving into directing until his retirement at age 65.
During his lifetime, Fan Ho taught photography and film-making at various universities worldwide. His works remain in private and public collections which, most notably, include that of M+ Museum (Hong Kong), Hong Kong Heritage Museum, Bibliothèque National de France, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Santa Barbara Museum of Art (USA) to name but a few.
In 2015, he selected around 500 old negatives from his own archive which he then cropped in his signature style. After he sadly passed away, it took another year for the project to be completed with the help of his family and Sarah Greene. In this final body of work, the artist wanted to portray Hong Kong as a city with a focus on its people.
"In 1959, when Fan Ho was 28, he wrote a book called ‘Thoughts on Street Photography’," explains Sarah Greene. "It was a collection of essays explaining different schools of thought prevailing at that time, different approaches, explanations on how to compose a good photograph and where his own work fits into the spectrum of photography."
In the last chapter of that book, he concluded: "My photographs with a strong pictorial aesthetic are still highly favoured among the salons. Documentary style street photography or portraits are rarely selected although they are among my favourites. Maybe one day the opportunity will present itself for me to show this body of work. In the meantime, I will just keep trying."
"Portrait of Hong Kong shows a different type of work than what Fan Ho is famous for," adds Sarah. "It provides a more natural record of a Hong Kong that has long be gone. A sincere wish he had cherished and expressed in his twenties has finally come to be."
Portrait of Hong Kong by Fan Ho will take place at Blue Lotus Gallery in Hong Kong from 22 March to 28 April 2019. Discover more at bluelotus-gallery.com.