Taiwan 1950s-1960s: in Black-and-While Photos

The Pioneer Documentary Photography of Taiwan

By National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts

National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts

Nostalgic Mountains – What Will Become of Them? (1946) by Huang Tse-hsiuNational Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts

The 1956 photo “Nostalgic Mountains – What Will Become of Them?” is a portrait of an indigenous woman with a pipe and facial tattoos, two of Taiwanese aboriginal culture's most distinctive features. The subject gazes serenely ahead, her expression the embodiment of steadiness and maturity.

Nostalgic Mountains – Indigenous Old Women (1954) by Huang Tse-hsiuNational Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts

The 1954 work “Nostalgic Mountains – Indigenous Old Women” is a portrait of an Atayal elderly woman. The subject's head occupies much of the picture, with the focus concentrated on her face, headdress, and pipe. By contrast, the images of the two women behind her grow smaller and less distinct as they recede in space.

Nostalgic Mountains – An Indigenous Girl (1954) by Huang Tse-hsiuNational Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts

The 1956 photo “Nostalgic Mountains– An Indigenous Girl” is a portrait of an Atayal princess in the village of Wulai. Posed on a riverbank hillside, the girl is sitting sideways, her body half-turned toward the camera, her pretty, young face square to the lens. Her long dark hair and the necklace of wild boar's teeth add to the work's aura of primeval youthful beauty.

Nostalgic Mountains – Indigenous Wedding Ceremony (1954) by Huang Tse-hsiuNational Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts

The subject of this 1956 photo “Nostalgic Mountains–Indigenous Wedding Ceremony” are richly attired Atayal newlyweds, the groom carrying the bride in a chair on his back as a tribal tradition.

The couple's joyous expressions are genuine, the highlight of this figural work.

Tamsui River – Shepherd and Cow (1942) by Huang Tse-hsiuNational Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts

The 1942 work “Tamsui River–Shepherd and Cow” captured the grasslands today is Daan Forest Park in Taipei. It recorded the vicinity of Datun Mountain and the landscape with a young cowherd and a water buffalo in a village on the outskirts of Taipei in post second world war, marks it a documentary photography that recorded Taiwan's modern history.

Tamsui River – Lunchtime Nap (outside the second water gate) (1956) by Huang Tse-hsiuNational Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts

The 1956 photo “Tamsui River–Lunchtime Nap (outside the second water gate)” was taken outside of Taipei No. 2 floodgate on the Tamsui River. The photographer quietly snapped a young farmer taking a noontime nap, he lying on his side and head propped on a straw-stuffed pillow, with a water buffalo resting beside him. Farther in the distance, Guanyin Mountain is on the left and the Datun mountain chain is on the right. The picture is a vivid record of life in Taiwan's preindustrial era.

The Street Performer by Den Nan-gwangNational Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts

Female workers account for a significant portion of Den Nan-gwang’s works. “The Street Performer” snapping the blind street-singers couples from a half-crouched angle on the left. The man playing the erhu, a Chinese violin, is only partly recoded with head and hand, and he enhanced the main subject- the blind woman sitting and strumming the yueqin, a kind of lute. The melody her fingers pick out seeming to flow out of the photo and into the viewer's imagination.

On the lower right lies the couple's bag, with two cigarettes and a box a matches that rewarded by a passerby.

Women Knitting by Den Nan-gwangNational Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts

1960s Taiwan was an era that everyone worked hard to get ahead. Women kept their families in mind, knitting sweaters, and making and mending clothing for their loved ones while commuting.

This scene might be captured on a commuter train. Here, the woman in the qipao is concentrated on her knitting; sitting beside her, the smiling woman in the Western-style dress reflects the good-natured elegance of women of that era.

Kids Blowing Bubbles by Den Nan-gwangNational Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts

Taiwan was still under developing in the 1950s that the entire families, adults and children, all working hard together and strove to grow the family's savings. “Kid Blowing Bubbles” captured a boy furrowed in concentration to blow beautiful, shiny bubbles of all sizes to solicit business.

This work is full of tension and impart a bittersweet aftertaste of that era.

Chorus (1961) by Hsu Yuan-fuNational Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts

“Chorus” captured an elementary school student choir performing, that we can almost hear the beautiful harmonies and melodies. The choir have their full attention on the ark shadow on the right side, the conductor, who cropped the photo and filling the frame with the image of the students, and left a lot of room for imagination.

Lungshan Templte by Huang Tse-hsiuNational Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts

“Lungshan Templte”, one of the most significant works of Huang Tse-hsiu, played an instrumental role in introducing the "themed series" concept into Taiwan's photography confluences. Shown a group of women and children with vividly expressive, crowded together to view a festive celebration in the temple compound. This photo was taken in 1950s-1960s,

its's not just a documentary photography, but also represent the temple's uniqueness and the spirit of common people in that extraordinary era.

Backstreet Life (1961) by Hsu Yuan-fuNational Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts

The photo offers a glimpse of life in a typical Taiwan alleyway in the 1960s. Despite the crowded conditions, all the neighbors get along amicably. Clothes are haphazardly hung out to dry, little children are at play, residents even have small business along the doorway. A father holding a crying baby stands in the shade, while the grandmother raised her hand in a gesture to soothe the wailing infant, implicit represented the chaotic-yet-orderly life of a three-generation- family living under one roof.

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