I first came across the work of Fan Ho, about 10 years ago, through a particularly rough patch in my personal life.
His work had me in a trance and made me forget my troubles while i perused his galleries, usually while my jaw was on the floor. His work has stayed with me since then, and probably will for the rest of my life.
Fan Ho was born in Shanghai in 1937, but he and his family soon moved to Hong Kong, where he grew up.
The majority of his work was created between the 1950s and 1960s, which was a time of growth in Hong Kong – indeed a lot of Fan Ho’s work shows the bustling street life of post war Hong Kong.
Fan Ho started his photographic journey when his father gifted him a Roloflex camera, learning to make prints in the family bath tub.
This is another important factor you have to remember about his work – In the 50s’ and 60’s there was no playback on the back of the camera, no way of knowing how the photos turned out.
He would get back to the dark room – I mean family bathroom – and cross his fingers.
The fact that Ho was able to construct such incredible images with (relatively) rudimentary tools just goes to show that equipment means nothing if you don’t have the eye or talent .
No-one ever asked what kind of brush Da Vinci used.
For me, the most striking aspects of Fan Ho’s work are his masterful compositions and use of shadow.
Deep contrast permeates every shot, which gives his depictions of Hong Kong such a stark beauty.
He chose to shoot early in the morning and as s result, fog drenches a lot of his compositions.
Fan Ho was also a master of frames within frames – shooting people or animals through doors, windows and structures – all brought together in striking black and white.
Fan Ho went on to become a prominent filmmaker in the 1960s and passed away in 2016 at the age of 84, but his work will surely be admired and revered forever.
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