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HKFP Lens: Legend behind the lens – Fan Ho street life series pays homage to old Hong Kong

An archival street photography series “Portraits of Hong Kong” delves into the collection of the late Shanghai-born photographer Fan Ho.
Work and Play(成人工作・小孩玩樂)

‘Work and Play (成人工作・小孩玩樂)’, Hong Kong 1950s and 60s, courtesy of Blue Lotus Gallery. Photo: Fan Ho.

The series, posthumously published with the help of his family and Sarah Greene, director of Blue Lotus Gallery at 28 Pound Lane, Sheung Wan, presents his extensive archive of documentary photos.
Thriving Market (川流不息)

‘Thriving Market (川流不息)’, Hong Kong 1950s and 60s, courtesy of Blue Lotus Gallery. Photo: Fan Ho.

In 2015, the prominent photographer selected around 500 old negatives from his own archive which he then cropped in his signature style.
Recollection of Wan Chai(灣仔集體回憶)

‘Recollection of Wan Chai (灣仔集體回憶)’ Hong Kong 1950s and 60s, courtesy of Blue Lotus Gallery. Photo: Fan Ho.

Fan Ho wanted to portray Hong Kong as a city with a focus on its people. In his own manifesto “Thoughts on Street Photography,” which he wrote at the age of 28, Fan Ho said: “[M]y realistic street photos are rarely selected. Pictoral aesthetics and images with a sense of humour are still the key for salon photos but I expect changes to happen soon, I will just keep trying.”
Kids and Cat(童心)

‘Kids and Cat (童心)’, Hong Kong 1950s and 60s, courtesy of Blue Lotus Gallery. Photo: Fan Ho.

Fan Ho began photography at the age of 14 with his father’s Kodak Brownie camera. In 1949, he moved to Hong Kong with his parents, where he began working in the film industry and became a director until his retirement age 65. Throughout his lifetime, he taught photography and film-making at various universities worldwide
Fan Ho

‘The Last Beam (餘暉)’ (left) and ‘The Young Punter (獨當一面)’ (right), Hong Kong 1950s and 60s, courtesy of Blue Lotus Gallery. Photo: Fan Ho.

The “Portraits of Hong Kong” photo series was published as a book by Hong Kong’s WE PRESS in June 2017, and was awarded “Best Book of the Year” by the Hong Kong Federation of Book Publishers in the 11th Hong Kong Book Prize Competition in 2018.
Fan Ho

‘Mystic Alley (秘巷)’ (left) and ‘Strolling to Tai Ping Shan Street(漫步太平山街)’, Hong Kong 1950s and 60s, courtesy of Blue Lotus Gallery. Photo: Fan Ho.

Fan Ho has received almost 300 accolades for his work throughout his lifetime.
Fan Ho

‘Surreal Sai Wan(憶西環)’ (left) and ‘Age of Innocence in Sheung Wan (童趣)’ (right), Hong Kong 1950s and 60s, courtesy of Blue Lotus Gallery. Photo: Fan Ho.

Ho’s works remain in private and public collections, most notably, in that of M+ Museum in Hong Kong, Hong Kong Heritage Museum, and Bibliotèque National de France.

‘Master Craftsman(鬼斧神工)’, Hong Kong 1950s and 60s, courtesy of Blue Lotus Gallery. Photo: Fan Ho.

Green said in the process of putting together the body of work, Fan Ho would rummage through boxes of old negatives late at night: “During the span of a year, Fan Ho went through his archive: boxes of little plastic bags filled with negatives,” she said.
Fan Ho

‘Market Promenade (開門七件事)’ (left) and Mom’s Second Kitchen (媽媽我餓了) (right), Hong Kong 1950s and 60s, courtesy of Blue Lotus Gallery. Photo: Fan Ho.

“Fan Ho was never much of a morning person, most active at night he would spend hours holding his negatives up into the light of a desk lamp, searching for forgotten and nearly lost gems.”
In Deep Thought(思量)

‘In Deep Thought(思量)’, Hong Kong 1950s and 60s, courtesy of Blue Lotus Gallery. Photo: Fan Ho.

“At night I turned the negatives to positives and returned to the artist next day to fine-tune selections and crop his favourite ones. Close to 500 negatives were processed and selected like this.”
Fan Ho

‘Waiting for Mom(媽媽終會回來)’ (left) and ‘Whitty Street Diary (屈地街日記)’ (right), Hong Kong 1950s and 60s, courtesy of Blue Lotus Gallery. Photo: Fan Ho.

“Fan Ho would give them star ratings, some received 3 stars and were earmarked to appear in the book, some only received one star and were put aside,” Greene said, adding that her and Fan Ho worked furiously to compile the images together.

‘Four (肆)’, Hong Kong 1950s and 60s, courtesy of Blue Lotus Gallery. Photo: Fan Ho.

“The negatives of simple scans I had saved on my computer had to be found again in the little plastic bags to make proper scans.”
Fan Ho

‘Obedience (乖孩子)’ (left) and ‘Opposites (擦肩)’ (right), Hong Kong 1950s and 60s, courtesy of Blue Lotus Gallery. Photo: Fan Ho.

“The scans were shown on a screen and the negatives were passed around the family table to find the matching one.”
Fan Ho

‘Five Little Ones (五個小孩的母親)’ (left) and ‘Gossip (七嘴八舌)’ (right), Hong Kong 1950s and 60s, courtesy of Blue Lotus Gallery. Photo: Fan Ho.

“Once this process had been completed a new puzzle had to be resolved: matching the list of titles Fan Ho had written down with the negatives selected. This whole procedure took the family many weekends,” Greene said.
Can't Wait(貪嘴)

‘Can’t Wait (貪嘴)’, Hong Kong 1950s and 60s, courtesy of Blue Lotus Gallery. Photo: Fan Ho.

“Portrait of Hong Kong” will be shown at Blue Lotus Gallery. A cocktail opening will be hosted on March 21 and the exhibition will last until April 28.
Balance(穩)

‘Balance (穩)’, Hong Kong 1950s and 60s, courtesy of Blue Lotus Gallery. Photo: Fan Ho.

Dancing Canopies

‘Dancing Canopies (白篷的舞步)’, Hong Kong 1950s and 60s, courtesy of Blue Lotus Gallery. Photo: Fan Ho.

Young Musketeers

‘Young Musketeers (當年情)’ Hong Kong 1950s and 60s, courtesy of Blue Lotus Gallery. Photo: Fan Ho.

Quarter to Four

‘Quarter to Four (三點九・中環街市)’ Hong Kong 1950s and 60s, courtesy of Blue Lotus Gallery. Photo: Fan Ho.

Visit Fan Ho’s website for more photos, or his page on Blue Lotus Gallery.

HKFP Lens: Legend behind the lens - Fan Ho street life series pays homage to old Hong Kong