Vintage Photographs Offering a Glimpse of the Old Hong Kong

Sotheby’s Hong Kong Gallery
Hong Kong, China
Public Exhibition: 14 – 30 June 2017

Visual Dialogues: Hong Kong through the Lens of Fan Ho, the most comprehensive exhibition on Fan Ho’s photography is a  selling exhibition featuring over 30 vintage works by celebrated photography master and film director Fan Ho (1931 – 2016). Each photo captures a moment in time, nostalgically documenting life in Hong Kong in the 1950s.

For the first time, Fan Ho’s photography and related objects, among them the original Rolleiflex f3.5 camera used throughout his lifetime and his book Thoughts on Street Photography (published 1959), will be exhibited. The new photo book, Fan Ho: Portrait of Hong Kong, which presents some of his most important works and documents his contribution to Hong Kong’s street photography, will be released and available for sale at the exhibition. Taken together, Visual Dialogues is the most comprehensive retrospective of Fan Ho’s award-winning body of works and career as photographer.

Jasmine Yan, Gallery Director, Sotheby’s Hong Kong Gallery, said: “‘A picture is worth a thousand words.’ This old idiom holds true especially when viewing Fan Ho’s photography. It is hard to restrain yourself from gazing into each photograph, contemplating what life was like then, romanticising and perhaps for a moment you might have time travelled to old Hong Kong.

Sotheby’s is pleased to collaborate with Fan Ho’s family and Sarah Greene to present this comprehensive exhibition, which not only features Fan’s vintage photography, but also the numerous awards and related objects pertaining to him as an iconic photographer and as visual artist. Many of these objects have never been exhibited to the public. We hope Hong Kong audience and collectors will enjoy Visual Dialogues.”

ABOUT FAN HO (1931 – 2016) 1

Born in Shanghai in 1931, Fan Ho delved into photography at the early age of 10 when he started taking pictures with a Kodak Brownie camera his father had left behind. Later at the age of 18, his father bought him a twin lens Rolleiflex camera with which he took all his award-winning photographs.

In 1949, Fan Ho’s parents moved to Hong Kong, where the young Fan Ho continued pursuing his passion for photography, in particularly for street photography. Dubbed the “Cartier-Bresson of the East”, Fan Ho’s works earned him close to 300 local and international photography awards and titles. His talent was discovered also by the film industry where he started out as an actor before moving into film directing until his retirement at age 65.

During his lifetime, Fan Ho taught photography and film-making at various universities worldwide. His works remain in private and public collections which, most notably, include that of M+ Museum (Hong Kong), Heritage Museum (Hong Kong), Bibliothèque National de France, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Santa Barbara Museum of Art (USA) and more.

1 The biography is extracted from Fan Ho’s official website,


Fan Ho is renowned for his romantic and distinctive use of light and shadow, lending his images an exquisitely composed background of geometrical construction, patterns and textures. Fan Ho’s images of Hong Kong’s streets scenes and stalls, alleys and wet markets taken in the 1950’s and ‘60s, remain, to this day, some of the most iconic images of the city ever photographed.