Lucid Moments Captured In Photos


Precious moments captured through the lens and cameras in printed photos in the past may be lucid, but their memories are profound.


“When we look back into our lives we see that our life is but a collection, a collage of these moments which take the shape of images, images which lower our spirits, images which inspire, images which help us remember the people that have come along our way, touched us and silently left, images that go on to become memories and leave a lasting impression as long as we are here, as long as we are here to be.”
― Chirag Tulsiani

During the Bukit Ho Swee fire on 25 May, 1961,  there were 2 poignant photos taken by the Straits Times journalist and published in the newspaper.

bukit ho swee fire 1961m

bukit ho swee fire 1961lPhoto credit and courtesy of The Straits Times to share on this blog.

“A moment can be left inside the memory of time.”
― Munia Khan

“…and realizes how there are all these moments, moments like just this one, there are all these moments, and how everyone lives their lives in these short, all-too-short moments. There are all these moments and what’s so interesting, what makes them beautiful, is the fact that none of them last.”
― Joe Meno

 Photos of  Fan Ho


Fan Ho as the Chinese Buddhist monk, Xuanzang in the Shaw Brothers movie, “Journey to the West” in the photo below:


A few years ago I was surprised to discover that Fan Ho (surname Ho), whom I’d known only as the venerable monk in Shaw Brothers’ four-film adaptation of Journey to the West, was also a highly acclaimed photographer.

Even before he joined the Shaw studio in the early sixties, he had made a name for himself in international competitions, exhibitions, and salons. From 1958 — when he was just 17 years old — to 1965, Ho was named one of the Top Ten Photographers of the World by the Photographic Society of America.

An exhibit of his photographs is currently up at Modernbook Gallery in Palo Alto until August 2nd. I took a look a couple of weeks ago, and his work is simply stunning. Ho specializes in Hong Kong street scenes, and because the city has changed so much in the fifty-odd years since he shot them, the photos capture a world long vanished. But besides the obvious historical value of his work, Ho impresses with his mastery of light and shadow, his sensitivity to the drama of the street, his cutting social commentary, his love of the magic in everyday life, and his surprising flights into abstraction.

The nearly 150 photos on display are original prints made by Fan Ho himself during the fifties and sixties. This coming Friday, July 10th, the gallery is hosting a talk with Ho at 7pm. If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, don’t miss this chance to see him and his amazing body of work. If you don’t live nearby — and even if you do — then consider buying one of Fan Ho’s books, Hong Kong Yesterday and The Living Theatre. Both are handsomely designed and printed (the superb duotone printing really makes the photos come alive).

(Source: duriandave )



Fan Ho shared his memories and experiences of his masterpieces over the decades for us to learn and enjoy.











The other side of theater







Her Study, 1963 reminds me of time I spent in the early 1970’s living in a workers’ hostel next to the Whampoa dockyard in Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong. On the ground floor men would congregate in the tiny room with the blaring TV to watch and chat. Nightly, amid the din of the room, would sit a 5 year old girl – the daughter of one of the men who helped run the hostle and lived there – who would shut out all the multiple distractions, studied, learned, and practiced writing her Chinese characters. Her quiet determination and energy filled all the men with respect and pride for her. But she was not alone in such efforts. Next to the hostle was one of the oldest and foulest public housing estates in the then British Colony, and there one could see the scene of a child choosing to rigorously study amid the cacophony replicated again and again. Fan Ho captured this beautifully. 2014-08-31_1318012014-08-31_131952“A Day is Done” – one can almost feel the tiredness of the individual, absorb the softness of both the lingering daylight and the shadows. Overall almost a sadness that the day is ending…superb.


According to Fan Ho,  his photos were not planned or designed his subjects intuitively to capture the memories of the moment at any time, place or event.  The above photo was the only one he did deliberately and the lady model was his cousin.


Comments on Fan Ho’s photography fans

Simply amazing work. Great compositions and use of light.
I can but aspire to achieve anything half as good as these.

Brilliant photos. Taken back when you had to
take time and make an effort to compose a perfect shot.

All superb pictures of the quality to aspire to. Approaching shadow is just an object lesson in composition and tonality.

Gosh, these are stunning, every single one!

Really cool stuff.

Interesting to see that nearly every one of these images is in a slightly different aspect ratio, obviously carefully chosen based on the composition.

Apparently what he mainly did was shoot with a Rolleiflex (that’s a square 6x6cm format camera) and then crop down his images based on the desired composition. In other words, he almost always took more image than he wanted and then adjusted the edges later – unlike some photographers who chose the format they like (square, long 35mm rectangle, 6x7cm, etc) and let the camera guide their compositions.

I like the “private” one. Contrasted with some images we have of Hong Kong (I don’t know myself, since I haven’t been), hustling and bustling and overcrowded, you can imagine this couple finally finding a bit of private time and really making the most of it.

Sensational stuff! I’m always a fan of images that have light as one of the main features of the composition.

Fantastic eye and magical composition. Thank you so much for posting this work.

He’s captured the Hong Kong spirit. I actually have tears in my eyes…

A genius in the depiction of the passage of light over form.


These are truly superb! A great use of mono as well- too many people put average photos in mono when the light just isn’t right.
Approaching Shadow is one of the best photographs I’ve seen.

These photos of Fan Ho were taken “On a little street in Hong Kong” several decades ago.  Watching at these photos reminds me the archived photos of Chinatown, Singapore available at National Archives of Singapore and photos shared on Jerome Lim’s Facebook group, “On a little street in Singapore” and other related popular Facebook groups for nostalgia friends.


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