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Fan Ho: On the ‘Decisive Moment’ with Hong Kong Sign Language
Fan Ho: On the ‘Decisive Moment’ with Hong Kong Sign Language
Video Transcript

(Original language: Cantonese)

FAN HO: I actually prefer black and white. It’s not that I don’t take colour photographs, but I’ve realised one thing. Colours do not fit well in my world. Black and white offers me a distance. What kind of distance? A kind of distance from real life. I think this distance is very important. Real life is multicoloured. Black and white offers a sense of detachment. It allows audiences and viewers to develop their responses and offers the space and depth to ponder and contemplate my ideas.

I like the colour black. It has a kind of power, one that is great and mysterious. It’s like a power that rules over the world. I take photographs casually, with spontaneity. For example, when I lived on MacDonnell Road in the Mid-Levels in Central district, I would walk down from the Mid-Levels. Back then there was no MTR. I would take my camera with me, down from MacDonnell Road, walking the backstreets and narrow lanes through the haze, where there were ordinary folk: ordinary, grassroots, and minority people. The kind of ‘Hong Kong spirit’ that they represented is unforgettable. They constantly struggled to survive.

I always pay attention to the light. I consider photography as the art of light. The light needs to fit my needs, not to mention achieve contrast. So it’s important to wait for the right light. When I am inspired, I can express my state of mind at that moment, the way that I feel. The great writer Honoré de Balzac once said that art is nothing but to move. What a great way to put it.

This one, I have to be honest, I cannot claim credit for. Rather it’s a joke that God played on me. In fact, I wasn’t even taking pictures of the children. The negative was in a square format. I was actually photographing the tram lines. My first impression was that the photograph wasn’t any good. But as I looked at it, I found the two children on the side, which was even more fun and interesting. They were keeping each other company after school. It’s as if there is a kind of rhythm.

I enjoy cropping photographs. It’s like making a movie. I really enjoy the editing process. What’s it like? It can breathe new life into your work. The same goes for photography. That side is lifeless, and this side is alive? Cut that side off, then.

Truly good photographs are not taken with the camera. They come from inside you, your eyes, your brain, your heart, not some cold piece of equipment.

Truly good photographs are not taken with the camera. They come from inside you, your eyes, your brain, your heart, not some cold piece of equipment.

Fan Ho

Master photographer Fan Ho shares thoughts on his photographic method during his final visit to Hong Kong. Interpreted in Hong Kong Sign Language (HKSL)

While much of the Hong Kong of the 1950s and 1960s captured by Fan Ho no longer exists, it can still be experienced through his photographs of the time.

Said Fan Ho: ‘Photographing in black and white offers me a sense of distance: a distance from real life. I think this kind of distance is important.’

M+ Magazine

Fan Ho (American, b. China, 1931–2016) was a photographer, film director, and actor. He spent his early years in Shanghai, where he began taking photographs after receiving his first camera at the age of fourteen. He moved to Hong Kong in 1949, and from the 1950s onwards gained considerable attention for his striking photographs of everyday life in Hong Kong. M+ has twenty-eight seminal photographs by Fan Ho in our collections, providing a unique window into the past.

Video Credits

Produced by


Hong Kong Sign Language

Arts With the Disabled Association Hong Kong


Kenji Wong Wai Kin

Curatorial Research

Alexa Chow, Winnie Lai, Tina Pang

M+ Video Production

Lara Day, Chris Sullivan

Special Thanks

Fan Ho, Sarah Greene, Yung Ma, Arts With the Disabled Association Hong Kong

Visit our YouTube page for International Sign Language interpretation. A special thank you to Arts With the Disabled Association Hong Kong.

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