Snapshots over the Years: Passion and Images of Hong Kong
Ho Sau Exhibition Photographs are imprints of memory, records of events. It allows the viewer to observe, taste, guess at, recall, even re-live experiences. "Snapshots over the Years: Passion and Images of Hong Kong" comprises 6 parts: Biography, Worklife with KMB, Vanished trades, Street lives, Home in So Uk, and A conversation of 2 generations: Ho Saus Photography. Apart from touring through the gallery, one may examine how Ho Saus life impact his creative pathway, and allows him to give personal accounts for his own works.
Ho Sau was born in 1925 in Guangzhou. His family have been running a Chinese herbs and medicine store in Macau over 200 years. Ho’s father took care of the clerical work of the family business; his uncle founded Man Fan School in Hong Kong. At Man Fan School, Ho Sau learned ancient Chinese language and poetry from his uncle and cousin.
In the summer of 1937, Ho accompanied his mother to visit their relatives in Hong Kong, but during their stay they learned of the news that Guangzhou was bombarded by the Japanese. For safety reasons, Ho stayed to study at the subsidiary primary school of Man Fan School. After the death of his mother, Ho moved to Macau to live with his father and pursued secondary studies, but then the Pacific War broke out and Ho Sau was forced to terminate his studies and returned to Hong Kong to seek work opportunities.
With his studies repeatedly interrupted by war, Ho Sau remained passionate in his pursuit of knowledge and has been a loyal listener of the English programme hosted by Wong Jok-ki on Radio Rediffusion. He also learned English from the textbook English Echo. His daily English conversations with his expatriate employer when he was working as a chauffeur also enriched his vocabulary. One immediate benefit of learning English was that Ho was able to give his photos English titles when he decided to participate in international salon photography competitions.
After the World War II, Ho Sau came to Hong Kong as a casual worker for his relative in a Chinese restaurant for a living. In the 1950s, Ho Sau began working for B.C.K.Hawkins, the then Secretary for Chinese Affairs, as his personal chauffeur. Ho Sau was diligent and had a love for arts. Although the war had interrupted his studies, it had not deterred him from the pursuit of photographic arts. He received a camera from Hawkins as a gift, and thus began taking up photography as a favourite hobby.
After Hawkins retired and returned to England, Ho Sau became a bus driver. He paid particular attention to the street scenery and used his camera to capture and document social reality.
Because of his love to photography, Ho Sau made friend with the boss of Wing Kee Group which was a dealer of a German-brand camera. Through this connection, Ho Sau took up a job as a clerk at the company until retirement. Ho Sau kept on his interest in photography, writing poetry and sharing his works with others through exhibitions and publications.
A Life with Photography
Since the first camera, Ho Sau occasionally purchased new equipment. Given his limited income, he adopted a frugal approach in his photography practice. He had instead focused on photographic techniques to compensate a lack of sophisticated equipment.
With the pressures of life, Ho Sau was unable to travel around to capture photographic scenery and models like what a professional photographer would do. He turned his focus on the general public and the cityscape. Children, women, elders and ordinary citizens were often the subject of his photographic work. His adoption of a poetic and realist style had added a sense of truth, kindness and beauty to his photos. To his documentary photos he also added poetic verses of his own, creating a unique blend of “poetic photography of ordinary lives” that presented the many facets of the social lives in Hong Kong.
Engaging in Salon Competition for a sense of satisfaction
Ho Sau first won championship in the “Worker’s life” photography competition organized by the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions. Later he found international salon competitions to be immensely challenging and thus took part in such competitions. His works won numerous awards and were showcased in photographic collections worldwide. Later, Ho Sau became the adjudicator for local salon competitions and committee member for local photographic societies.
His story tells us: anyone can pursue a life of art. At the same time, unconsciously he recorded the history of Hong Kong’s cityscape and ordinary lives with his camera.