Transcript: On the ‘Decisive Moment’

Ho Fan: On the ‘Decisive Moment’

(Translated from Cantonese)

HO FAN: 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.

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