I got to know Fan Ho (何潘) (not in person of course) when I was randomly walking around a bookstore in Hong Kong. His book <The Living Theatre> was on display and the bookstore set aside a sample book so I got to browse it. At that time, I did not know who he was.
When I browsed, the first image already blown my mind! Because such is the image I wish to achieve before I die. I am not sure if people label him as ‘Street Photographer’ but in my opinion, that’s the kind of street documentary shots I want to achieve in my life. Not those go-up-to-someone-in-the-face-and-shoot-their-shocked-face kind of photo. Nothing wrong with that but just not what I fancy doing.
Fan Ho Biography (1931-2016)
What astonished me was he developed his photos at his house’s bath tub! In my impression, the cameras back then must be damn expensive, and not many people can do photography, given the unstable situations (动荡的年代) back then, I really wonder how he got all his resources in developing? Furthermore, he’s mostly self-taught in a time where there’s no such thing called ‘internet’. He’s truly talented.
Fan Ho image style
Personally, I love his style. I have seen quite a few photo books but none really left such a huge impression on me.
After studying his images, I feel that he did not really go right in front of his subjects and shoot. He composed his shots very well, with many leading lines, framing and rules of thirds. In some article, he said people at that time hate having their images taken. One butcher even insisted to have his soul back or wanted to kill Fan Ho. Maybe that’s why most of his images seemed to be shot in discreet, but still display great soul, great feeling and great composition, with foreground and background. He was also good at catching light and shadows. Good eyes for details!
What we can learn from Fan Ho
I know he must be a man with so much patience. An article mentioned he would go back to the same place again and again, waiting for hours just to get the best shot. For me, I like to walk and walk, cannot even wait for 5 minutes and I moved on. And I also thought whenever I go out, I must have something. That’s why I am always in a rush, walk a lot but never think. No wonder my photos are soul-less and meaningless. I always ponder why. Now my idol is Fan Ho, I must learn to be patient while on the street. Perhaps I shall do some ‘fishing technique’.
Previously, I thought street photography is about just going out and shoot whatever. So my photos are all about random humans on the streets. Now I know why my photos are so lifeless and meaningless. Because I shoot randomly. Now, I must thrive to achieve composition in my photos, not just go up to someone or tailing their backs and ‘attack’ them.
His photo books
To the best of my knowledge, he got two photo books available for sales. I have <The Living Theatre> and I browse it every other nights before I sleep. I definitely will get the other book <Hong Kong Yesterday>.
Who is your favourite photography master?