Fan Ho — Afternoon Chat

Study The Masters: Fan Ho — Part Two: Afternoon Chat

The twenties was perhaps Fan Ho’s most productive time as a still photographer in Hong Kong. His work exhibited full life on streets of Hong Kong — the vendors, the merchants, the coolies, the kids playing in the streets. By the age of 28, he had a big body of work behind him and had won had won major photographic awards.

He made clever use of light and his photograph, Afternoon Chat, taken in 1959, is one such example of that.

Compositionally, the rays of the light create a pattern of diagonal lines which lead the eye through the frame. The high contrast nature of the photograph creates the distinction between bands of light, making them stand out. Also the fact that the four edges of the photograph have been darkened, this ensures that the eye never escapes the frame.

Then there are a couple of different gestures at play. First one, of the three women having a cordial afternoon chat among themselves.

And then perhaps a more compelling one, the blunt gesture of the child in staring straight at the photographer. The kid does not look amused and seems rather quizzed by the photographer. Child’s gesture adds mystery to the photograph as we are not really sure what the child is thinking. The choice of perspective in keeping the camera low to the ground ensures that the child is looking at the camera at his level, not up at the camera.

This image takes you back to what I imagine Hong Kong was like in the 1950s.

If you missed other parts of this series, you can read them here.

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