Historic Prints

Historic Prints of the PSA Print Collection:

Water Palette, 1953, by Kan Hing-Fook, APSA (Chinese, 1921-    )


On September 16-22, 2012, at the 74th edition of the PSA's annual conference, held this year at the San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront Hotel, the works of Mr. Kan Hing-Fook, one of China's most respected photographers, were featured in a retrospective exhibition. This represents a special honor for the PSA in as much as Mr. Kan, now 91, became a cornerstone member receiving his first PSA award in the International Photographic Salon in Singapore at the age of 30. Prior to the exhibition, the only photograph by Mr. Kan held in the PSA collection was Water Palette, 1953, a 16”x20” gelatin silver print. Following the San Francisco exhibition, Mr. Kan, who still resides in Hong Kong, has agreed to donate other important works to the PSA collection, adding to what is unquestionably one of the largest holdings of photographic prints by Chinese Pictorialist photographers anywhere.

Water Palette was granted the Gold Medal Award in the Photographic Society of Hong Kong's VIII International Salon of 1954, making Kan the first Chinese artist to receive the award. This image was also chosen as a classic photographic work in China in the 20th century by the National Cultural Promoting Commission of the Ministry of Culture. Similar to the story of Ansel Adams having only a couple of minutes to visualize, set up and photograph his famous image,Moonrise Over Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941 before the dramatic lighting on the scene faded, Kan recounts that Water Palette, made in Tolo Harbor, Shatin, Hong Kong illustrates the quick work it took to capture the undulation of the water, moved by a momentary breeze and accentuated by strong backlighting. The long, beautiful tonal range in the resulting print shows his understanding of proper exposure and his mastery of black and white printing.

Kan Hing-Fook was born in Hong Kong in 1921. Self-taught, he began his photography career in 1938 and into the 1940s pursued studies with Chinese artists Liu Haisu and Zhang Chongren at the Shanghai Fine Arts School. His approach to photography combines Western and Chinese painting theories influenced in particular by the French Impressionists. The numerous awards he received for Water Palette established him firmly in the Chinese photographic world. In 1957, his work was included in the Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Macau Photography Exhibition which was held in Beijing. In addition, Mr. Kan finished second twice, among all worldwide photographers who participated in the International Salon Photographic Association in view of all scores collected by the PPA and he was awarded the title of A.P.S.A by PPA and the title of F.R.P.S by the Royal Photographic Society (RPS). 

Mr. Kan has always been known for his forward thinking and his experimentation with new processes. About this he has stated, "A painter is able to figure out what he knows and likes in his paintings; it is not as difficult now as it was in the past. Photographers today are no longer limited by the mechanics of the camera and darkroom techniques. The invention of digital technology has widened my creative mind. Now I can achieve a similar effect on photographic paper as a painter does on canvas. It is a sure bet that the use of digital equipment holds the future for photography.”