Traditional Studio Photographer

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Mr. Chan Kwan Quan kept saying that it is easy to remember the opening date of his photographic studio “Mei Wa Zi”. It is because one famous Hong Kong actress, Linda Lin Dai committed suicide on the same day (July 17, 1964). After 52 years, although Hong Kong has changed a lot, Mr. Chan still insists on keeping the traditional way of operating his business. He has never changed the shop appearance, still uses the film camera and the old background flats which he has been there for over 50 years. When I entered his studio, I thought I had travelled through time and made a visit to the 1960s Hong Kong.

 

52年前著名邵氏女星林黛自殺,同一時間陳崑泉先生(陳伯)就在香港仔開設「美姿華攝影室」,一開就開了52年。52年來香港滄海桑田,這間影樓卻依舊在香港仔大道210號一樓A室照常營業、絲毫不變,店內依舊保持著當年的裝修和設備,陳伯手中握著的依舊是菲林相機,照出一張張別具韻味的相片,所以當我走進影樓訪問陳伯時,彷彿進入了另一個時空、得以一窺數十年前的香港風貌。

 

 

Before Mr. Chan opened this studio, he was originally working with his father as an electrical and plumbing engineer. At that time, their business was quite successful. They had many loyal customers, including several Cantonese opera troupes (Outdoor performance needed temporary electricity). Logically, Mr. Chan shouldn’t have had anything to do with photography. However, when one day his father gave him some film rolls and encouraged him to try photography, this changed his whole life. He found out that he had great interest in taking photos (film only). Therefore, he finally decided to become a full-time photographer.

 

水電工程世家 受父親影響進入菲林世界

在開設「美姿華」前,陳伯是跟著父親做水電工程生意的,當時做水電工生意不錯,粵劇團「搭棚」演一場大戲時需要臨時電錶都會找他們,而且又有街坊支持(約六至七成是街坊生意),本來應該跟沙龍攝影扯不上什麼關係,但有一天他父親給了他幾張菲林叫他嘗試攝影,同時後來機緣巧合下得到現址的舖位,便促成他正式成為全職攝影師並擁有自己的影樓。

 

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Each photo has its own story. After all these years, Mr. Chan still remembers most of the stories behind the photos. When he took out some old photos and used them as examples to teach me the right way of taking a good photo, he told me that: “When this girl first came to my studio, she was very nervous. Therefore, her smile was very strained. I then tried my best to help her relax slowly […] She found me again when she graduated from university. Due to the past experience, this time she performed much better […] On the other hand, her sister was easier to deal with.” It was really not difficult to feel Mr. Chan’s passion towards photography while listening to his story.

 

每一張相片記載著不同的人和事,而多年以來,陳伯接待過無數客人、接觸過不同的故事,很多到現在他依然記得一清二楚。當他拿一些多年前留下來做記錄的相片向我講解菲林攝影的技巧時,對於拍攝該相片的過程仍然歷歷在目:「她剛來的時候還在上大學,拍照的時候很緊張,所以笑容很生硬、不太好看,我便想盡辦法幫她放鬆下來……上過這一課後,當她大學畢業再來光顧時,過程就順利很多……她的妹妹反而第一次(來拍照時)就輕鬆得多了。」聽著陳伯滔滔不絕地訴說著這些故事,實在不難感受到他對攝影的熱愛和熱誠,從客人細微的面部表情、客人的身體狀態、環境的燈光、當時的氣氛以至他攝影時的心態,他都要求嚴謹、一絲不苟。

 

 

Actually, there are still many photography studios in Hong Kong. Modern studios have moved their shops from the street to industrial buildings in order to enjoy cheaper rent. Their cameras and equipment have also changed into more digitised and more advanced devices.  However, until now, Mr. Chan insists on using the analogue camera as before, which has higher costs and is more difficult to handle. The reasons behind are not only because of the quality of the photos, but also because of the process that carries a deeper meaning. Since the cost of one film roll is at least HK$60, it is hard for Mr. Chan to charge the customers a lower price. Therefore, every time before he presses the shutter, Mr. Chan needs to think carefully and be well-prepared: “Sometimes, I need to talk to them and make them feel relaxed […] Sometimes, when there is a baby, we need to wait for half an hour or even more until he/she wakes up […] When I am going to shoot the photo, I need to consider which method is the best. Should I shoot from 1 to 3? Or should I lower the curtain? Or should I suddenly press the shutter so that I capture that beautiful moment? We need to know that we cannot preview the film photo before it is developed, so every chance is precious. That’s why I need to use at least 2 hours to finish a job.” This is also the most significant difference between digital and analogue photography. Mr. Chan remembers when the HKTVB (TV broadcasting station) came to his shop and did some photo shooting, the TVB photographer who used a digital camera just kept pressing the shutter. He understands that digital camera is more advanced and more convenient, but all the photos just look very similar to each other and lack character. It is because people don’t need to think twice when shooting, without the limitation of the film roll. They are just seeking satisfactory quality out of large quantities, but not pursuing perfection.

 

菲林數碼大不同 全因張張皆辛苦
其實現時攝影室或者影樓的數量從未衰減過,很多新式攝影室均已經為了更便宜的租金而遷往工業大廈,器材都轉變為更高科技、不需要菲林的數碼攝影機,但陳伯至今仍堅持使用成本更高、操作更繁複的菲林相機,原因不僅是因為菲林相機能拍出一種獨有的懷舊感覺和像油畫般的美麗色彩,還有是那種張張皆珍貴、張張皆辛苦的意義。每卷菲林的成本至少六十多元,因此對客人的收費也難以收得便宜,這樣就使得陳伯在每次按下快門前都要準備周全、深思熟慮:「有時侯要和他們(客人)先傾談一下、讓他們放鬆下來;有時侯如果有嬰兒參與攝影,就要用上至少數十分鐘等他們醒來……然後終於開始拍照了,就要考慮該倒數讓他們準備、落下布幕讓他們不太尷尬,還是突然按下快門去捕捉那一刻比較好…….因為對於我還是客人,每張菲林、每次機會都很寶貴,再者菲林相片在沖曬出來之前是無法預覽的,只要按下去(快門)就無法挽回了,不論好壞都要接受…..所以每次拍攝都要至兩個小時左右,人多就需時更多。」在整個訪問過程當中,陳伯不斷提及到數碼與菲林攝影的最大不同之處,就是這種更人性化、更具人情味的細膩和謹慎,他還記得有天香港無線電視台上來租借他的店舖拍攝,那位攝影師拿著數碼攝影器材不停按下快門,「影左二十幾張,張張都一模一樣」。

 

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「如果唔係自己舖,禁做生意一早就摺左好耐!」

 

“If I did not own this shop (no need to pay rent), this business would have closed down years ago (due to the high cost).”

 

 

 

 

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Of course, 52 years ago people did not have smartphones or digital cameras. Therefore, if they wanted to a take photo (especially a family photo), and since buying a film camera was very expensive, they would go to the studio and find Mr. Chan. Having encountered many customers in the last 52 years, Mr. Chan has many funny moments to share with us for sure. “In the past, taking a photo in a photography studio was quite expensive and not everybody could afford it. Therefore, if you were able to go to a studio, others would think that you were wealthy. One day, a male customer brought some friends to my studio and said that he would pay for his friends. After finishing the photo shooting, he paid HK$10 (HK$50 was the full payment, which was considered very expensive at the time) as deposit and claimed that he would pay the rest when he came to pick up the photo. In the end, he never came back to my studio. This man had just come to show off in front of his friends.”

Mr. Chan shared another interesting story about how he prepares for his shooting. Besides considering the lighting and the background, Mr. Chan would also take the customers’ “Min Seong”(Chinese traditional study of “reading people by observing their faces”) under consideration. Once, Mr. Chan’s old friend brought his daughter to visit him and take a few photos. The girl’s face was diamond-shaped and in Mr. Chan’s opinion her hair style on that day did not match her face. “According to “Min Seong”, diamond-shaped faces are not very good, especially for girls. They have a bigger cheekbone, which means that they might gain more power in life but are quite rude at the same time. Due to the big cheekbone, their Nasolabial Folds become more obvious and this makes them appear serious and angry. On the other hand, their chins are slimmer than others, which means that they are more sarcastic. Therefore, since that girl’s hair was very long and thick, her image had become more aggressive […] So, I asked her to have a haircut and come back another time.” said Mr. Chan.

 

多年以來奇事不斷 傳統攝影大有學問

多年前沒有智能手機、沒有數碼相機,加上菲林價值不菲,因此若果想拍照,大部份人都會光顧影樓。面對各種各樣的客人,陳伯當然遇過不少奇人趣事,他向我提及當年儘管有影樓,菲林攝影始終不便宜,所以當時能夠上影樓拍照是一件很風光的事,然後有一次一位客人帶人上來並請他們拍照,拍攝完畢後就給了十元按金(拍攝費用要五十元),但最後那位客人終究沒有來取回相片以及付清餘額,因為原來他只是想借此機會「充闊佬」而非真的想拍照;此外,方才提到出色的菲林攝影對於攝影師的技術和準備功夫是有很高要求的,而在準備功夫方面,除了要確保燈光和環境良好外,原來連客人的面相和身體狀況都要一併考慮,有一次陳伯的一位友人叫他女兒來影樓拍照,但怎樣拍也感覺不夠好,陳伯就這樣分析:「歸根究底,是她的面相和髮型不配合,導致她的整體感覺不良好,拍出來的形象太剛強、不夠溫柔……你看她是菱形臉,顴骨較大,所謂「有顴(權)有勢」,顴骨較大的人性格是比較強硬霸道,虎紋又特別深,就更顯為人剛硬,加上她臉部下半部分較尖,即為人較尖酸刻薄,臉下方(下巴)尖的人在面相學來說有較大機會晚年孤獨,多有權勢也沒有用,然後她的頭髮偏厚又很長,使她整個形象更沉重,所以影了第一輯相片後我便叫她改改造型才再來,那一輯就不收費了……後來她剪了個較清新典雅的髮形,整個感覺立刻改善了不少。」

 

 

 

 

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