Approaching shadow
November 26, 2014 5:37 AM   Subscribe

With a knife in his hand, a pig butcher said he would chop me. He wanted his spirit back.

Fan Ho's black and white street photography of 1950s Hong Kong
posted by KirkpatrickMac (19 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
 
These are really great. The composition and contrast in lighting is really remarkable, more part of "photography as painting with light" than "photography as documentation."
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:55 AM on November 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


<3
posted by grobstein at 6:15 AM on November 26, 2014


The best photographers always shoot into the light. I bet those images were a bitch to print in the darkroom. I bet Fan is a better printer than he is a photographer and that's saying something.
posted by photoslob at 6:20 AM on November 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


The guy has a mastery of process that's hard to find - the natural light and tonality in those scenes are wildly all over the place, and it takes a firm hand in the darkroom to tame it into something so dreamy and balanced.

I'd love to know what kind of camera and film he was using - I'm guessing medium-format rollfilm, as they're so crisp, and yet have decent depth of field.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:23 AM on November 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's fast film, too. There's a stillness, even in the motion shots where I'd expect some blur.
posted by Mogur at 6:28 AM on November 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Just beautiful. What skill.
posted by dubitable at 7:25 AM on November 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


And his composition - the one of the wall with the woman resting in the corner is about as perfect a photograph as I've seen.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:34 AM on November 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


Beautiful! I don't have the language for talking about photography well, but there's a...depth? immediacy? to these that's really extraordinary. They really put you there, in the space, with the subjects. They feel like living, breathing people and settings, not just flat images.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 7:37 AM on November 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


oh awesome. i just threw "approaching shadow" up on mlkshk yesterday and wanted to do some more reading/search of fan ho's work. here's some more photographs i found.
posted by nadawi at 9:40 AM on November 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


Wow, these are great - thanks for posting!
posted by carter at 9:44 AM on November 26, 2014


Excellent figure-ground in his work.
posted by stp123 at 10:09 AM on November 26, 2014


The light in these is so delicious I want to put the photographs in my mouth.
posted by oulipian at 10:10 AM on November 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh man that's my Uncle. He's married to my Dad's older sister. The lady in the last picture on that page is a relative also (a grand aunt, maybe?).
posted by juv3nal at 10:36 AM on November 26, 2014 [13 favorites]


Fantastic ! thanks !
posted by nicolin at 11:38 AM on November 26, 2014


Remarkably great stuff.

If, in fact, he did shoot these with a Rolleiflex, which I doubt all were, bear in mind that he was likely looking downward into a waist level finder with the left to right view reversed. This is not a combination that lends itself well to following any kind of action.

The good news however, was that during this time, photographic printing papers were rich, fiber-based, frequently heavyweight high quality products were were really silver laden. A skilled black and white printer had the tools and the media which remain unsurpassed even to this day.
posted by imjustsaying at 3:02 PM on November 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm almost speechless.. Beautiful, amazing photography. My goodness, the light on the water and the smoke rising from the boats..... Thank you so much for posting this. x
posted by DZ-015 at 8:32 AM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


This stuff is perfect. Honestly, by any definition there is, this is perfection. If I could afford any of his work I'd have some on the way already. The man is truly a master.
posted by artof.mulata at 1:44 PM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


And his composition - the one of the wall with the woman resting in the corner is about as perfect a photograph as I've seen.

Oh hey I just noticed this. FYI, there was darkroom trickery to do the shadow:
The image with its sharp shadow crossing the dejected young lady's feet (Fan Ho's cousin) epitomises Grecian tragedy as it denotes the inevitability of fading youth. The shadow was put in by Fan Ho in his dark room. (via)

I'm not certain whether it was done just by burning or whether it was somehow composited from another shot though.
posted by juv3nal at 6:50 PM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh hey I just noticed this. FYI, there was darkroom trickery to do the shadow:

I had to take a photo of the inside of a new museum, once. I had a "rep" for getting unique shots of unphotographable subjects (which I was, at the time, oblivious to. I liked taking pictures of kites with color print film, which, looking back, were boring as shit.)

This museum was all curves and spikes and skylights and halogen spotlights and black velvet walls and steel railings and wool carpets and wood fixtures and it was a mess, tonally speaking. I checked out the widest Nikon-mount fish-eye The Cage had, slapped it on my FA in Matric meter mode, aimed it straight up, and bracketed the holy hell out of a roll of Tri-X pushed to 800, and another pushed to 1200.

I spent So. Much. Time. in the darkroom, fiddling with vario-contrast filters, custom dodgers, pin-hole burning with a huge mat-board a dozen different areas in the image... finally, I took a repro photo of a print I liked and called it a day and handed it over to the museum staff. Then I flunked out of art school, but damn. It took me five minutes to visualize the photo, and two weeks breathing photochemical fumes in the dark to actualize it.

TL:DR - there's post-processing trickery in almost any damn pic worth you looking at.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:51 PM on November 27, 2014


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