The austerity of black and white photography is always arresting as it lays forth a halting cut of contrasts bringing any image into sharply defined focus. It creates a compelling awareness of raw, unvarnished reality, often yielding a shadowy view into another world, strange, haunting, familiar but unfamiliar. So it is for the celebrated, beloved, and award winning street photographer Fan Ho whose new publication “Fan Ho: A Hong Kong Memoir” provides a mesmerizing view into a time that is all but forgotten. Mr. Ho, now 80 and from Shanghai, has been an active photographer since the 1950′s and his recent work recalls that time by reaching back through Ho’s extensive archives of unused negatives, revisiting Hong Kong at the mid-point of the last Century. The resulting selection of photographs are poignant, sumptuously minimal, complex, and hauntingly beautiful, creating a ghostlike view of a world that seems more cinematic out-take than certainty. However there is a humanity that floats through the photographs, contrasted by graphic shadows that cut the images directing your eye away from sentiment – forcing you to ride the edge of controlled emotion. In fact, rather than cinematic these are images of a world that inspired cinema; presenting a richness in it’s portrait of poverty, the persistence of survival, the romance in austerity, and the unbreakable bonds of friendship and family; it is a lush illustration of raw daily life.
Mr Ho’s collection displays the monochrome geometric order that he is known for — creating contrasts between nature and the hard lines of shadowed abstraction. He also creates an unexpected flow of images from the densely populated urban streets, to the peaceful lakes of the countryside, to the crowded boat-cities, to the serene untouched mountainside. However, it is the human story that holds the most impact making it an emotional experience for me personally. Though the photographs tell an unyielding, unemotional visual story of the bustling metropolis that was Hong Kong in the 1950′s and 60′s, one senses the drama and struggles of everyday life unfolding. Through Mr. Ho’s use of smoke, shadow and light he is able to show the city rising from a haze that is fantastic – yet real; it is a seamless and effective photographic gesture. With stark contrasts of darkness and light and the soft manipulation of shadows he creates an unapologetic, unyielding, intimately beautiful view of life from the streets of Old Hong Kong.
Award-wining photographer Fan Ho was born in 1937 in Shanghai, China. He is a celebrated and renowned film director, actor, and photographer who has won 280 awards from international exhibitions and competitions worldwide since 1956. Mr. Ho has been elected Fellow of the Photographic Society of America, Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, England; Honorary Member of the Photographic Societies of Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Brazil, Argentina, Singapore and etc, and was honored with One-Man-Shows in the above countries. Mr. Ho’s photography is mostly self taught and he has become known for focusing on people who live in large cities. His work has been described as “abstract and humanistic at the same time”. Mr. Ho’s works can be seen, and have been published, in many International Photographic Annuals all over the world. He has received some numerous awards from international exhibitions and institutions, and has taught in several universities across the globe.
‘Hong Kong Memoirs will be exhibited at Modernbook Gallery (San Francisco) and AO Vertical Art Space (Hong Kong) starting the end of October 2014. The exhibitions will be concurrent on two continents, San Francisco, California in North America and Hong Kong in Asia. During the exhibitions a brand new book will be published by Asia One and Modernbook.
See more of Fan Ho’s work at his web site: http://www.fanhophotography.com