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Two masters capture light and street life

Workers in Hong Kong
Workers in Hong Kong in the mid-20th century. Fan Ho

Two masters capture light and street life

Fan Ho’s shots of 1950s Hong Kong sit beside Gabriele Croppi’s stark city images

Soft, meditative glimpses of everyday life in 1950s and ’60s Hong Kong are juxtaposed with hard-edged compositions taken in modern-day European and American cities in a joint exhibition running at The McDermott Gallery as part of the Angkor Photo Festival.

Hong Kong Yesterday by Fan Ho, who was named by Invisible Photographer Asia as one of the region’s most influential photographers in 2012, sits alongside Gabriele Croppi’s stark images of urban landscapes.

Ho, whose photography has received 280 awards over the course of his career, has become the subject of revived acclaim in the past few years, and the McDermott Gallery was delighted to be asked by festival organisers to host his work.

“We were absolutely thrilled,” said John McDermott, co-owner of the gallery. “Then we went looking for something to run alongside Ho’s work, and we found Croppi’s Metaphysics of the Urban Landscape. It was such an obvious choice for us. Their contrasting approaches complement each other beautifully.”

Photographer Gabriele Croppi specialises in harsh images of modern day Europe and America
Photographer Gabriele Croppi specialises in harsh images of modern day Europe and America. Gabriele Croppi

Fan Ho’s Hong Kong street photography takes the viewer into a nebulous world of characters and striking shapes and forms.

“They’re very graphic in the sense that there are beautiful curves and shapes inside of the composition of the picture,” said John McDermott.

“His use of light is exquisite, and the way he makes light itself the subject of the photo is brilliant. He’s like a student of [Henri] Cartier-Bresson in how he subtly brings together all of the elements into one perfect decisive moment.”

Ho’s method was to set up and wait all day for the perfect shot capturing it with the Rolleiflex given to him by his father and making use of the soft afternoon light to create a sense of mystery and romance.

In stark contrast, Croppi’s images rely on the sharp-edged light created when the morning sun sits hard on the horizon creating rakes of light across a scene.

The images cast strong architecture in a hard light, and emphasised by the placement of humans. “In an urban landscape, Croppi’s approach is particularly effective, because you can create these hard tunnels of light and dark,” said McDermott.

The exhibition will run until January 6 at the McDermott Gallery in Siem Reap.

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