Design Feature #18

Salute to Fan Ho and Photography

Photo Now

Written by Lai Yat Nam
Photo credit by Photo Now
Translated by Derek Leung

The recent topic of interest in our city is nothing more than virtuoso photographer Fan Ho who has just passed on and left us the faded fascination for our passé colonial cityscape alongside the Victoria Harbour. The sudden emotional invasion of yearning loss is reminiscent of the year of 2012 when Ho was once again brought up for discussion. 2012 was regarded by my friends working in the media field and those keen on photo-taking as a year so important in the chronology of contemporary photography in Hong Kong that was eventually named the Year of Hong Kong Photography.

That year, Hong Kong International Photo Festival invited Daido Moriyama to come to our city for a large-scale exhibition on his works so that the younger generation could be exposed to what the mastery of photography was. iPhone 4 was also launched around that time and its powerful shoot and share photographing feature popularized contemporary photography which made taking photos less complicated and mysterious. Meanwhile, Facebook perfected its integration into the smartphone platforms which enabled all locals to photograph with ease. When thousands of works are available online, people will ask what a good piece of work is or why some works are classics whereas some digital garbage. To me, timelessness and heartfelt insistence can be presented in the works.

When Ho’s photography works were published as a genuine photo album after being redesigned and repackaged by a local press that year, he seemed to have been re-discovered to fill the void in the urban neighbourhood of Hong Kong. While his collection is indeed a true record over generations and territories, Ho is without doubt the very witness of an era.

A mature photography master who intends to emphasize photography as a medium of unique cultures is required to understand that the recording of time and images represents the essence of photography. If I were in the 60’s, I would never cry seeing those shots as they showed the everyday scenes of the time which were not expected to vanish, being the reason that Ho’s works did not impress the then Hongkongers, but instead do strike nearly all of us from the Millennium.

Similarly, as a memory stick of the contemporary city, Photo Now may at this stage not be able to touch all contemporary walks of life with the shots of the current daily living;nonetheless, I am confident that the power of the images left to the coming generations is by all means beyond the boundary, and we are the only ones to witness the urban vicissitude!

Thanks to the technological advancement, the photos taken by the latest equipment can be of higher light exposure compared to human eyes, thus a closer proximity to the subjects being shot and accordingly clearer pictures with richer details and stronger textures, and most importantly a more intimate and interactive relationship between the photographer and the photographed.

Photographers live a forward-going linear life and all images the cameras capture are bygone. Instead of the past and the future, the only thing that can be photographed is "now". Even Ho is not able to change such a relationship between photography and time.

the only thing that can be photographed is "now". Even Ho is not able to change such a relationship between photography and time.

Please try to appreciate in the perspective of time when you ruminate on the works of yours or others next time, and I am sure you will see something far beyond.