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Richard FungSketch Pad

Richard Fung
Eclectic visions
by Kathy Anderson

ichard Fung’s wife used to constantly tell him, “You can do better.” She’s still his best critic, but now she’s proud of his accomplishments – and even has a few favorites. The Fungs moved to Portland two years ago for the quality of life; the natural surroundings, landscapes and character were added attractions. And when Richard, a San Francisco native, isn’t working his day job, he eats, sleeps and breathes photography.

Indelible impressons
Richard Fung's photographic images are eclectic visions he's been keeping in mind for a long time.

Main Street
"Main Street"

"I try and search out my photographs," he said. "Sometimes, when I'm hiking or on vacation, I'll see a picture in my head that reminds me of a place from my past. I love to photograph anything old, such as dilapidated buildings and structures."

Richard views photography as a way to form indelible impressions and reflective emotions. Bringing the viewfinder up to his eye, he briefly calculates exposure setting and composition, but the moment also has to create an emotional response.

"It must evoke a feeling that I'm able to share with my viewers as a reflection of my own personal interpretation," he said.

"It takes an enormous amount of practice and time to create a satisfying photograph. I go through a meditative process with my subjects before snapping the shutter. I've learned to be patient and was inspired a few years ago to photograph blue herons and great white egrets because they display so much patience and quiet beauty."

Egret over Lloyd
"Egret over Lloyd"

Each morning when Richard wakes up, he's thinking about what to shoot next, what camera to use, which photo he's taken that needs improving and what energy he can keep within to stay inspired.

"Last year we bought a small cottage on the Washington Long Beach Peninsula, and it's becoming my favorite location to shoot," he said. "I think that in one of my former lives, I must have been a fisherman because I love to photograph trawlers, lighthouses, beaches and the ocean."

Surreal settings
Photography sustains Richard's creative energy and reconnects him with his childhood.

Before coming to Oregon, he spent three years roaming the streets of San Francisco, Chinatown and Golden Gate Park, searching for memories in the buildings and faces of the people he photographed.

Commodore Stockton
"Commodore Stockton"

"My photo 'Commodore Stockton' is an impression I felt as a lost child in a surreal setting before my family moved to another town," he said.

"I tried to capture the feeling with a cheap plastic Diana camera and plastic lens. This camera helps to create an ethereal effect, but you never know what to expect, as it also gives unwanted light leaks because of the plastic toy construction.

"Many photographers use the Diana as an art tool," he said. "I would not necessarily call myself a gear-head, but I do use all types of equipment ranging from 35mm to 4x5 large format."

Long Beach
"Long Beach"

Richard is always trying new methods to bring about a different vision or to stimulate feelings; his latest is a diffusion method in the darkroom.

"I have even tried Polaroid manipulation and pinhole photography," he said. "But for the most part, I've stayed with my plastic Diana camera for a similar result."

Richard primarily uses color-print film, but also shoots black and white, sometimes hand-coloring his prints to create effects.

"I don’t develop my own film, but I enlarge and print all my photographs at U-Develop in Portland. And since I’m somewhat of a perfectionist, I matte and frame all my own work for my customers."

Whenever, wherever
Two photographers Richard feels have influenced his work are Edward Steichen and Walker Evans.

"I love their work," he said. "Especially the monochromatic color and soft focus impressions used by Steichen, and Evans’ SX-70 Polaroid photos of buildings and signs. I think their work has helped me develop my own approach to similar subjects."

Mainly purple
"Mainly purple"

Richard shows and sells his work whenever and wherever possible.

His photos have been displayed at NE Portland's Buffalo Gardens, the University of California, Berkeley Art Studio and the city of Gresham Visual Art Gallery.

"The Carnegie Center in Oregon City has asked me to display a one-person show for the month of June," he said. "I'm calling the exhibit 'Eclectic Visions, Past and Present'."

Patient embrace
As a child, Richard attempted to capture the beauty of nature through finger painting and crayola sketches.

His art début came at age nine, when he made a kite out of pink butcher paper, painted a blue and gold King Arthur’s crest on it and won an award.

Sun after rain
"Sun after rain"

Richard embraced photography when he was very young and was most influenced by his grandfather.

"He was what I would term a closet photographer – one who never really took it seriously enough to pursue as a career, but more than an amateur," he said. "My grandfather taught me patience, perseverance and discipline.

"He once dressed us kids in traditional Chinese outfits and made us stand in front of hot flood lamps for hours while he painstakingly took 4x5 photos using an old press camera. I became more fascinated with the mechanical dials, lenses and operation of the camera than with the aesthetics of his photographs. Nonetheless, he paved my way."

Richard's mother dabbled in oil painting and his father acquired an art degree from the University of California-Berkeley at the age of 78.

Path over pond
"Path over pond"

Except for a few photography classes at the University of California, Richard has had no formal art education. Instead, he's learned from reading how-to books and by using his first love – a Petri 35mm Rangefinder.

"I got the camera when I was 17 and carried it everywhere I went and photographed everything I saw," he said. "I even became a little enterprising by taking photos of people at dinner gatherings and then selling the glossies for $1.50 apiece. Of course, this was back in the '50s."

Drawn back in
Recently, Richard ran across a 42-year-old, 35mm-Kodachrome slide that he took of San Mateo High School in California, when it had snowed two inches. The slide was used for the cover of his high school yearbook.


"I became the school photographer and used the camera as a way to communicate with my fellow classmates," he said.

Shortly after leaving college for military service, Richard packed the Petri away and didn't look through that viewfinder again for almost 28 years.

"I attribute my reconnection to photography to an early morning when I was standing beside a very picturesque rushing brook in Big Sur, California," he said.

"It was a crisp spring morning with the sun backlighting the leaves and bugs dancing to the rhythm of pulsating water. I wanted to capture that image forever in my mind and was drawn back into photography."

Richard's ultimate goal is to work with young people, to help them display their creativity.

E-mail Richard at Richard.Fung@ci.gresham.or.us. You can reach Kathy at kanderson138@attbi.com, and draw on other Sketch Pads.

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