1950s Hong Kong Captured In Street Photography By Fan Ho

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Fan Ho is a highly praised Chinese photographer known for his stunning images of life on the streets of Hong Kong. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Fan Ho took some incredibly dark and unique photos of the city.

During the 1950s a whole lot was going on in the metropolis city of Hong Kong, as it grew and expanded, changing to fit with more modern times while still clinging to the comforts of the past. Most of us that see these photos today were not lucky enough to see Hong Kong firsthand during this unique era, but thanks to Fan Ho we can gather an idea for what it was like.

In 1949, Fan Ho moved to Hong Kong from Shanghai. He wasn’t the only one; a huge wave of immigrants accompanied him at this time due to fears of communism. Instantly he found himself fascinated with the everyday moments occurring around the city, so much so he was always there with his camera in hand to document his surroundings. And we are sure glad that he did! These photos are so incredibly telling, giving us a unique peep hole into history without having to read any thick text books full of big words.


Fan Ho has such a unique cultural background which is highlighted throughout his telling photographs.


Taking photos was sometimes as dark of an experience as Ho’s black and white images hint towards. In one instance, Ho explained to the South China Morning Post, “With a knife in his hand, a pig butcher said he would chop me. He wanted his spirit back.” Even today certain cultures believe that a photograph can steal your spirit, meaning not everyone is down for a “selfie.”


Throughout the 1950s in Hong Kong, there was a lot of change taking place as populations increased rapidly. Just like Ho, people were rapidly fleeing Shanghai due to the Nationalist-Communist Civil War. There were fears that the reach of communism would cease Hong Kong, but the British Government was determined to keep this from happening. The focus was on turning Hong Kong into a business and manufacturing district that proved too lucrative to be taken over by the communist party.


Due to the ongoing fighting and instability, the 1950s were full of poverty. A lack of natural resources and jobs was made further apparent by the influx of immigrants from China.


Without enough housing for all of the people coming to Hong Kong, many set up illegal huts at the foothills of mountains and even on top of other existing buildings throughout the city.


With so many different people filtering into Hong Kong, there was an array of cultural diversity and language barriers. And while the Government provided those naturally born in Hong Kong with education and housing, the incoming refugees were not given the same opportunities.




Fan Ho’s work has earned over 280 awards, from both local and international competitions and exhibitions. His work has also earned him the title of “Visiting Professor” at over 12 universities worldwide. Invisible Photographer, Asia has named Fan Ho as one of the Most Influential Asian Photographers. 


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His photos remind us of so many historical facts, as well as lessons that still ring true today. Such as, even in the most trying of times love still thrives.

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Prints created under his supervision and signed by the photographer, range in price from $950 to $5,000 and up. Vintage prints made exclusively by the artist can cost as much as $10,000+, and start at around $2,000.

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These photos have now been published into a book titled, Fan Ho: A Hong Kong Memoir.

Image Credits: modernbook.com, Facebook