Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up – 7th July, 2017

This week Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up comes to you from Hong Kong where I’m a lecturer on a master tour for global journalism studies.

It is a fascinating time to be here given the city has just celebrated, or commiserated depending on your perspective, the 20th anniversary (1 July) of the handover from Britain to China. Meeting with the major media organisations has also delivered different perspectives on the future of journalism and the significance of this city as a hub of global media.

But this Hong Kong visit has not only been about media and politics, it has also been about seeing exhibitions. Today I share my favourite with you, the retrospective of Fan Ho’s work.

Fan Ho (1931-2016) – The Cartier-Bresson of the East

Fan Ho

Born in Shanghai in 1931, Fan Ho began his love of photography at the age of 14 after he was given a Kodak Brownie. Four years later he bought a Rolleiflex, which became his camera of choice. When he moved with his family in 1949 to Hong Kong he began documenting the city, spending long days waiting for the right light, the right scene, his imagination sparked by the daily happenings on the street.

Fan Ho experimented with lighting using the elements he found on the streets – smoke, shadow, steam, water – as special effects. He favoured shooting at dusk and his subjects were the ordinary people on the streets and in the markets.

As is often the case, Fan Ho never set out to create an historical visual document of Hong Kong, but that is exactly what his collection, shot in the 1950s and 1960s, has become. Later Fan Ho went on to work in motion pictures and is also revered as a film director, but his love for still photography remained throughout his life. He also shared his knowledge teaching at various universities around the world.

Considered the father of street photography in Hong Kong, in 1959 Fan Ho published his book of essays, “Thoughts on Street Photography” which is still in print today, but only available in Chinese.

Fan Ho saw photography’s “special link to reality” as its greatest asset, yet he also acknowledged the complexities involved in capturing that decisive moment.

He spoke on ideas of objectivity and subjectivity, debates that still occupy photographers’ thoughts today. Fan Ho believed objectivity “seeks to portray reality in a direct, straightforward manner,” while subjectivity “aimed at portraying another type of truth and had to be seen more as a reflection of one’s soul and spirit in nature”.

(C) All works Fan Ho

To find out more about Fan Ho’s work and to buy his books visit the website here.

Next week I’ll be back blogging in the freeze of Melbourne’s winter, but for now I’m enjoying the 80+% humidity, the massive daily thunderstorms and pelting rain and the heat of the East. Have a great weekend.

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