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Edit Or Not To Edit That's The Question: Story Behind The ´Approaching Shadow´ By Fan Ho

2/16/2020 ISO 1200 Magazine 0 Comments

Edit Or Not To Edit That's The Question - Story Behind The ´Approaching Shadow´ By Fan Ho

Hello photography fans! Today I would like to talk about an iconic image, Approaching Shadow, taken by master photographer Fan Ho. I have already talked about his life and photography in my previous video, so feel free to check it out if you are more interested in Fan Ho and his life.

Approaching Shadow is a photograph taken in Hong Kong in 1954. It is one of Fan Ho’s most famous work. When I first saw the photograph, I thought to myself, what a beautiful composition, but also, what a patient photographer—h  found the right spot and waited for the right time so the shadow reaches the edge of the wall. Well, it went all little differently, when Fan Ho asked his cousin to pose by a wall at Queen's College in Causeway Bay.

Let’s take a look at the composition. The horizontal line provides the stability of the image. Together with the vertical line, it leads our eyes to the subject.

But it is the diagonal line that “makes” the picture. I don’t think the picture wouldn’t necessarily work without it, but it would be a different kind of image and definitely not that iconic.

The subject is looking down, kind of like looking at the shadow that approaches her. The meaning Fan Ho wanted to create was that her youth will fade away, and that everyone has the same destiny. Fan Ho said it was literally tragic. However, it is art and as art it's going to mean different things to different people.

I say create, and not take, because there was originally no shadow. The shadow was added later in the dark room.

There were basically two ways Fan Ho took his photographs. Inspired by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Fan Ho was just chasing the decisive moment and didn’t plan at all. Sometimes he waited hours or days for the right moment to come.

As for the other way, he took or let’s say created his images. Fan Ho was known to edit his photographs a lot, from dodging and burning all the way to photomontages. We could almost say he was an early Photoshop user. Now, I don’t want to judge whether it is right or wrong. However, some purist photographers, and especially street photographers, would take that as “cheating.”

What I think about it is that in the end it is the artist’s vision he or she presents to the viewer. It is his point of view and his art; just like when you slap the retro filter on your photo using Instagram to change the mood. You are the artist who decides how your art is presented. What I think is potentially a problem is misleading the viewer into thinking the photograph is a candid moment when it is not. That way you are just pretending to create something requiring skill and luck without actually having them.

 I think to be honest with yourself as an artist is an important step towards improving your skills. Let me know what you think about it in the comments below.

Thank you for watching this episode of Story behind the Photograph. If you liked it, feel free to give it a like. Let me know in the comments what is your favourite photograph of Fan Ho. For those of you who are interested in this kind of content check out my series, The story behind the photograph.

You may also like: Fan Ho - The Great Master of Darkness

This article and images was originally published on and shared with permission. 

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