Taiwanese photographer Wang Hsin has dedicated her career to exploring the capacity of photography to forge deeper understanding between people.
The exhibition displays her work from the 1970s to the present, including many previously unseen photographs recovered from damaged negatives.
The exhibition “Line of Vision – The Photography of Wang Hsin” is on at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM) from 29 October 2016 until 5 March 2017. The exhibition presents an overview of Wang Hsin’s work organised into 14 themes, which provide an insight into various stages of her career from the 1970s to the present. These stages include her student work, her work from periodicals and exhibitions, her work with indigenous people from 1973 to 1977 and her street photography from 1980 to 1990, as well as her most recent work.
In addition, the exhibition contains a vast quantity of new prints, many of which were recovered from damaged negatives and which have been repaired by one of her students. This is the first time these images will be presented in an exhibition.
Therefore, when Wang was developing her graduation project she returned to Taiwan and her roots in her town Taichung. In her next project, from 1972 to 1973, Wang turned her attention to Seediq people of Wushe. Titled “A Trip to Wushe” the project questioned uniformed stereotypes of the Seediq by documenting their lives.
When Wang’s work toured to both Taiwan and Japan in 1974, she became known as a pioneer of Taiwanese documentary photography. She continued her work with local communities with a project from 1974 to 1975 where she photographed the Tao people of Orchid Island, a project documenting the traditional lifestyle and landscape of Penghu (1979 and 1989) and a series documenting scenes of life and religious rituals in Tibet (1992).
Forging deeper understanding through art
For Wang, her camera is a tool of expression. As curator Yi-ting Lei comments in the exhibition text, Wang is
motivated by humanitarian concern, she set out to bear witness to the vanishing cultures of indigenous people and common folk of city and countryside alike, and to convey the message that we should respect the differences among various cultures. She treasures the narrative nature of photographs. The hard tone of her black-and-white images has a melancholy, lonely quality and a precise yet warm feeling. Her works possess both documentary and creative value. Within their coarse granularity and dark hues lie the struggle and hope of humanity.
These series, developed over a long period of time and often taken in black and white photography, are driven by the need to foster deeper understanding between cultures.
During this process Wang reflected upon diverse ways of life that had marked Taiwan. In her series “The Folklife of Penghu” she contemplated the blood and toil involved in the country’s immigration history, while from 1974 to 1976 she documented Taiwan’s nine major indigenous groups. By delving into these past and present customs, Wang explored how different landscapes developed diverse ways of life, one not superior to another.
Aside from these long-term series, Wang also has many single or spontaneous photographs. These are often taken while she is travelling, for example on trips to India, Nepal and Kashmir. The process is more emotional and driven by an instinctive aesthetic. She explains in the exhibition text that
When it comes to scenery, I particularly love clouds and the sea. When it comes to objects, I seek to extract their abstract idea.
In 2003 Wang started using a digital camera, which she carried with her everywhere. The portable and low-resolution camera enabled her to capture more spontaneous scenes in her daily life. In 2007 she began to experiment with editing the photos and adjusting the colours. This process of experimentation is something Wang has been working on in the past few years without a specific subject matter in mind. The aesthetic is quite distinct from her reportorial photograph series, and reflects the curiosity and exploratory nature of Wang’s creative process.
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- “Lost Human Genetic Archive”: Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto at Tokyo Photographic Art Museum – November 2016 – Tokyo Photographic Art Museum celebrates grand re-opening and 20-year anniversary with exclusive exhibition of recent work by Sugimoto
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- Taiwanese digital photographer Wu Tien-chang’s figures are limbless and costumed – May 2011 – Taiwanese-born Wu Tien-chang’s fascination with reincarnation, karma and national identity has lead him to create unsettling “digital paintings”
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