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  • Sarp Kayali

Two Art Photography Masters

Aleksandr Rodchenko

Russian, 1891–1956

When The Museum of Modern Art’s first director, Alfred H. Barr, Jr., met Aleksandr Rodchenko on his trip to Moscow in 1927—one of the first times an Anglophone art historian had visited the Soviet Union in the years since the Russian Revolution—he wrote, “Rodchenko showed us an appalling variety of things—Suprematist paintings (preceded by the earliest geometrical things I’ve seen, 1915, done with compass)—woodcuts, linoleum cuts, posters, book designs, photographs, kino sets, etc…. He showed much satisfaction at having delivered the death blow to painting.” Rodchenko had declared the death of painting in 1921, with three monochrome paintings—Pure Red Color, Pure Yellow Color, and Pure Blue Color—exhibited in the exhibition 5x5=25 alongside works by fellow Russian artists Varvara Stepanova, Alexandra Exter, Lyubov Popova, and Aleksandr Vesnin. In these works, Rodchenko emphasized the paintings’ material qualities, applying the three primary colors in a way that drew attention to their substance as matter. “I reduced painting to its logical conclusion and exhibited three canvases: red, blue, yellow,” he declared. “I affirmed: it’s all over. Basic colors. Every plane is a plane and there is to be no more representation.”


Fan Ho was born in Shanghai in 1931, and emigrated with his family to Hong Kong in 1949. At the outbreak of war in 1941, Ho's parents were stranded in Macau for several years and Ho was left in the care of a family servant. Ho began photographing at a very young age with a Brownie which his father had left at home, and later with a Rolleiflex twin-lens reflex camera his father gave him at the age of 14. Largely self-taught, his photos display a fascination with urban life, explored alleys, slums, markets and streets. Much of his work consists of candid photographs of the street vendors and children only a few years younger than himself. He developed his images in the family bathtub and soon had built up a significant body of work, chronicling Hong Kong in the 1950s and 1960s as it was becoming a major metropolitan centre. Ho would use the same Rolleiflex K4A throughout his career.

I've always believed that any work of art should stem from genuine feelings and understandings ... I didn't work with any sense of purpose. As an artist, I was only looking to express myself. I did it to share my feelings with the audience. I need to be touched emotionally to come up with meaningful works. When the work resonates with the audience, it's a satisfaction that money can't buy. My purpose is simple: I try not to waste my audience's time.

 Ho Fan, 2014 interview with Edmund Lee

Upon seeing Ho's work for the first time in 2006, gallery owner Laurence Miller commented that "[they] felt like direct descendants of the Bauhaus, yet they were made in Hong Kong. They were abstract and humanistic at the same time.

Ho was a Fellow of the Photographic Society of America, the Royal Photographic Society and the Royal Society of Arts in England, and an Honorary Member of the Photographic Societies of Singapore, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, France, Italy and Belgium. Ho was named one of the "Top Ten Photographers of the World" by the Photographic Society of America between 1958 and 1965.

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