Bring back some good or bad memories


July 21, 2013

18 Stunning Black and White Photographs Capture Street Scenes of Hong Kong in the 1950s and 1960s

In the early 1950s, Fan Ho, a 21-year-old writer and film student, began photographing Hong Kong in a time of dizzying transformation. Bored by his studies, Ho turned to his camera as a source of entertainment and relief, exploring Hong Kong's streets and making images that, seen a full seven decades later, somehow manage to mask any overt, telling signs of the era in which they were created.

Entering his pictures in a local photography contest, Ho was astonished when he was awarded the grand prize -- a windfall that encouraged him to continue further exploring photography (and later, filmmaking) as his life's calling. At last count — some 60 years after winning the contest— Ho has now won more than 280 awards, produced 20 feature length films and published numerous books of original photography.

Shot in an era long before photographers could simply glance at their LCD screens to verify their intent in making a photo had been realized, Ho's process of deliberate observation, waiting (sometimes for an entire day), composing, then recomposing is downright exhausting just to contemplate.

The layered black and white photographs are the visual diary of a patient observer; a diary that, save for the lack of diesel-spewing motorbikes, cell phones and neon advertisements, truly feels like it might have been written -- and photographed -- yesterday.

But then, that's largely the point: at a time when the Hong Kong's heartbeat was quickening to a frenetic, "modern" pace, Ho's patient and deliberate method of working allowed him to see through the bustle and distractions to the true timelessness of place.

Each of Ho's photographs represents immense planning and thought — not just about what the scene should look like, but how it should feel on film.

"I am a director," Ho told TIME, explaining that the people -- strangers and friends -- around him are his actors. Sometimes directing friends into position, at other times relying on passersby or the occasional stray alley cat to hit a specific spot, in a specific way, Ho would wait (and wait some more) for the exact moment when a street scene's essence revealed itself.

Construction, 1957

In a Buddhist Temple, 1961

W, 1959

Street Scene, 1956

Sidewalk Barber Shop, 1960

Private, 1960

Pattern, 1956

Obsession, 1964

The Search, 1960

On the Stage of Life, 1954

World Upside Down, 1960

Woks, 1964

Back to Back, 1949

Danger, 1965

The Omen, 1964

Her Study, 1963

Inferno, 1962

Approaching Shadow, 1954

(Photos by Fan Ho, via TIME)



Browse by Decades

Popular Posts


09 10