An archival street photography series “Portraits of Hong Kong” delves into the collection of the late Shanghai-born photographer 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.
In 2015, the prominent photographer selected around 500 old negatives from his own archive which he then cropped in his signature style.
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.”
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
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 has received almost 300 accolades for his work throughout his lifetime.
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.
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 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.”
“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 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.
“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.”
“The scans were shown on a screen and the negatives were passed around the family table to find the matching one.”
“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.
“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.
Visit Fan Ho’s website for more photos, or his page on Blue Lotus Gallery.