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Old Hong Kong

Ho Fan, celebrated 1950s Hong Kong street photographer, dies in California

84-year-old, who also acted in and directed Shaw Brothers films over a 30-year movie career, was known for his powerful use of light and shadow in black and white photographs of the city

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 June, 2016, 3:25pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 June, 2016, 3:35pm

Celebrated Hong Kong photographer Ho Fan, best known for his street photography in the 1950s and ’60s, has died at the age of 84. Ho, who also directed films, succumbed to pneumonia at a hospital in San Jose, California, on June 19 with his family at his side.

Street life: Hong Kong in the 1950s as seen through the lens of photographer Fan Ho

Born in Shanghai in 1931, Ho took up photography at the age of 14 when he received a Rolleiflex twin-lens camera from his father. He moved to Hong Kong in 1949 and began photographing the streets and alleys of old Central.

His black and white images often play with shadow and light. One of his classic photos, Approaching Shadow, taken at Queen’s College in Causeway Bay, sold for a record HK$375,000 last year.

His work earned him nearly 300 prizes. Though most were for pictorial photography, the main focus of the early part of his career, he later began experimenting with a mix of documentary and pictorial photography. He was named one of the Top Ten Photographers of the World by the Photographic Society of America eight times.

Ho Fan joined the Shaw Brothers film studio in Hong Kong in 1961, and acted in several movies, including The Blue and the Black (1965) and Love Without End (1961). He later became a director, and was responsible for several erotic films, including the hugely successful Temptation Summary (1990) and Innocent Lust (1977). His favourite film was the first feature he shot, Lost (1969), which was shown at the Cannes Film Festival.

Ho moved to California in 1995 but continued to hold exhibitions both in Hong Kong, as well as in the United States, and published multiple books.