What is on your bookshelf

Previously with my first post “What is on your bookshelf?” I covered a number of photography iBooks available at iTunes for the iPad, but this time I will introduce you to a very recent acquisition of photographer Fan Ho’s The Living Theater.

The Living Theater

With a visit to San Francisco’s Chinatown in April of this year, I became very enchanted with the ambiance of the community, that there have since been numerous visits, each producing a decent number of interesting photographs documenting the people living there. So when I came across Fan Ho’s book at a gallery, I just had to have a look.

White Windows, 1962 (cropped)

With just a few turns of a page I was captivated and knew I would want to add The Living Theater to my library of fine art photography books. The photographs lured me into a world that now had changed when first these photographs taken between the late 1940s through the mid 1960s, though I imagine there are still plenty of pockets where time stood still.

Children's Paradise, 1959

Fan Ho born in Shanghai 1931 is now in his early eighties, dividing his time between San Jose, California and that of Hong Kong and Taiwan, where he directs films. In the past fifty years Ho has won over 280 awards for his work, as well as having taught photography and filming at a dozen universities, including being the author of several books. Little is known of Fan Ho's work outside of Asia and yet his rich body of work easily rivals any of the modern Western photographers. Today his photographs resides in the permanent collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Art the age of fourteen, Ho's father gave him a Rolleiflex camera with which he explored urban life, roaming the alleys, slums, markets and streets by engaging street vendors and children only a few years younger then himself.

A Sad, Sad Song, 1962 (slightly cropped)

Ho's artistic vision is capturing daily life, while also being true to that vision of dramatic Bauhaus point of view compositions and surreal abstraction, his photographs document the effects of changes in the individual lives and that of the landscape that surround them. His photographs are anything but reflection of realistic scenes, for they also evoke the romantic spirit and the Wanderlust of the viewer.

Mark Pinsukanjana, director of Modernbook Gallery in Palo Alto, CA, which exhibited Fan Ho’s work at photoLA, commented that, ‘These vintage photographs are a document of Fan Ho’s life in search of a beauty sometimes hidden amidst the overcrowded chaos of everyday life and survival in Hong Kong in the 1950s and early 1960s.'*

Journey Mystique, 1960

For me his images are timeless, as figures drift through the streets, engaged in their daily pursuits, they are linked to the environment of light and shadows that surrounds them. The visual humanistic beauty of Ho's blurring nostalgia with documenting the harsh reality, results in lyrical beauty, which is nothing short of poetic grandeur.

His photographs have become part of my memories, influencing future visits of how I view San Francisco's Chinatown and it's foreign culture and how I end up capturing it with my iPhone.

Book seller information

Modernbook Editions
494 University Avenue, Palo Alto, California 94301 USA

ISBN: Regular edition 978-0-9801044-3-1

Regular/Trade Edition: Cloth-bound, 9.5x11 inches, 176 pages, 150 duo-tone plates. 
Edition of 1000 copies. 
(Current Price $75 USD) Signed copy will be available upon request

LINK: Modernbook

* Insight: The Brilliance of Ho Fan's Photography, FOTOGRAPHIQA, January 18, 2012

All images © copyright of the photographer and/or publisher

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