Photographs That Resemble Traditional Chinese Paintings

Don Hong-Oai was a San Francisco-based Chinese photographer who created beautiful images that resembled traditional Chinese paintings.

The photographs of Don Hong-Oai are made in a unique style of photography, which can be considered Asian pictorialism. This method of adapting a Western art for Eastern purposes probably originated in the 1940s in Hong Kong. One of its best known practitioners was the great master Long Chin-San (who died in the 1990s at the age of 104) with whom Don Hong-Oai studied. With the delicate beauty and traditional motifs of Chinese painting (birds, boats, mountains, etc.) in mind, photographers of this school used more than one negative to create a beautiful picture, often using visual allegories. Realism was not a goal.

Hong-Oai was one of the last photographers to use this technique, and was also arguably the best.

You can find more of Hong-Oai’s work in this Flickr set and over at Gallery 71.

Don Hong-Oai (via Feature Shoot)

Image credits: Photographs by Don Hong-Oai/Gallery 71 and used with permission

  • Jeff Peterson

    Wow, those definitely have a unique look.  I especially like the first one and the one with the bridge.

  • Tanguero Chino

    Here is another example from another photographer.

  • Jono

    Any thoughts about how to recreate this technique?

  • Anonymous

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  • Brian


    I’m reminded of an old-style joke my father, a musician and teacher, told me: a young man with a saxophone steps off a bus in Times Square and asks an old man sitting on a bench if he can tell him how to get to Carnegie Hall. The old man says “practice.” Really not meaning to be a smarty pants here, just passing along advice that has worked for me over the years…. I believe we all need a little luck, and that “luck favors the prepared [person]” I read “prepared” to mean that I should have my camera at hand and have it “set” to go given the conditions.