I went to San Francisco's Modernbook Gallery in 2015. (The Gallery has now changed its name to Themes+Projects. The publishing company has retained the name Modernbook.)
I accidentally walked into the gallery which was housed with numerous other galleries on Geary Street. I was the only one there except for a very friendly young curator who gave me a tour of the photography and recounted the history of Ho Fan. I'm embarrassed to say I had never heard of Ho Fan before this visit. Hanging on the wall were some of the most beautiful black and white photographs I had ever seen. Ho Fan documents an era of the mid 20th century in Hong Kong through a striking black and white street photographic style.
This photo, Approaching Shadow 陰影, is one of Ho's most famous. He asked a cousin to pose by a wall at Queen's College in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. In the darkroom he added a diagonal shadow to symbolize "her youth will fade away as everyone has the same destiny".
Approaching Shadow is a photo of the woman leaning against a wall. The wall is massive - textured and white. The geometry is everything. The immense vertical pillar covered in light shadow on the left is in juxtaposition with the striking diagonal line and dark triangle to the right. Replete with symbolism. Dark and light. Yin and yang. The photo is breathtaking. Ho Fan rocks the Japanese aesthetics of simple, of minimal. There is a dramatic feeling of suspense - feeling the light slowly move, eventually disappearing with the setting sun.
The new gallery has moved to 1275 Minnesota Street #205. San Francisco. Silver prints of Ho Fan's work are available from Themes+Project. Vintage prints from the 1950’s and 60’s are also available upon request. Ho’s estate.
Modernbook's published books of Ho Fan's photographs are also available. (at http://www.modernbook.com/store/. Amazon.com. See below.)
1275 Minnesota St, #205
San Francisco, California 94107 USA
Ho Fan 何藩 (b. 1931 in Shanghai). Ho Fan was born in Shanghai and raised in Hong Kong. He moved to California in 1995 and died last year, in 2016. He was 84 years old.
"Ho Fan is often called the 'poet with a camera,' or 'the grandmaster.' His street scenes and photomontages of the 1950s and ‘60s left their marks on the minds of several generations. Considered to be one of the masters of black-and-white photography, Ho Fan was also an accomplished actor and filmmaker, having produced over 20 films in Hong Kong and Taiwan. The poetic grandeur and dramatic power of his photographs have earned him over 200 prizes in the course of his long career, which began in 1956." (Photography of China)
Ho started his career with a Nikon camera, but he also used a Rolleiflex and Leica. “I waited for a long, long time for the right moment,” he says. “I always waited for hours and hours for the best lighting effect, because you can’t move the sun. You must wait for the exact angle of the light – and the exact moment for the suitable subject to appear.” (Mercury News )
"Ho Fan’s expressionist and experimental photographs not only capture street life in Hong Kong from 1950 to the present, they also explore topics in the Asian tradition of painting, like shanshui (traditional landscape painting), abstracts and nudes. Distancing himself from “pure photography,” the artist plays with shapes and compositions, deliberately distorting silhouettes, accentuating areas of shadow and light, combining multiple negatives, altering the perspective, and many other tricks." (Photography of China)
All photos are Copyright by Fan Ho’s estate, 2017, courtesy of Themes+Projects. Themes+Projects are the exclusive agent and representative of the late Ho Fan's estate.
an evening with Ho fan
In this video, Ho Fan talks about his photography.