1987 / 6月
成年後的許蒼澤與朋友合資在鹿港經營一家戲院，因而認識了台北專營銀幕與電影器材生意的張士賢，兩人都是攝影的狂熱者，一拍即合，開始結伴出遊。他們後來還組了一個「香蕉俱樂部」，包括陳龍三、徐清波、鄭水等人在內，每個月一起合資購買日本的五本攝影雜誌（Asahi Camera、Camera每日、Nikon Camera、Photo Arts、Camera藝術）專攻社會寫實，一起以BananaClub的名義參與雜誌的對抗賽，其向心團結的氣勢甚為高昂。可惜在五○年代末期隨著號召人張士賢的肝癌去世，沒能繼續凝結一股力量而各自分散了。
Chang Chao-t'ang /photos courtesy of Hsu Ts'ang-tse /tr. by Peter Eberly
If the original function of the camera is to record reality and reflect the natural, then even photographers who reject the stance of "artistry" and "creativity," and who simply record quietly the subjects of interest they find around them, can still offer pictures that, as the years pass, preserve for us cherished memories of people and places of the past.
Hsu Ts'ang-tse is one of these photographers. In the thirty and more years that he has been taking pictures, he has never gone outside without taking a camera along and has been snapping the shutter as easily as blinking his eyes. He estimates that he has taken around 1,200 black- and-white and over 1,400 color photos, and he continues to develop a roll a day on average.
"Photography to me is recreation," he says. "It's not for getting published or winning contests. My pictures have no artistry to speak of. But I really have recorded many scenes and people of our province."
Hsu Ts'ang-tse was born in 1930 in Lukang, a small city in western Taiwan. His father, a doctor, had taken up photography before him, setting up a workroom where he photographed friends and relatives, and ever since the younger Hsu first touched his father's bulky camera with its glass plates when he was sixteen, he felt a growing and compelling interest in photography himself. In 1957, after he bought a little Nikon S2, he began to travel about the countryside, recording scenes among the people there.
Hsu invested with some friends in a movie theater, and in this way came to meet Chang Shih-hsien, another photography fanatic, who sold motion picture equipment in Taipei. Chang and Hsu, together with Ch'en Lung-san, Hsu Ch'ing-po, Cheng Shu, and others, formed the Banana Club, which subscribed to five Japanese photography magazines specializing in social realism and participated in magazine contests as a group. The club broke up in the late 1950's after Chang Shih-hsien's death, however, and the members went their separate ways.
Hsu was heavily influenced during that period by realistic photography. However, his attitude toward realism is not as forceful as Chang's was; Hsu is more moderate and easygoing, preferring to let things come naturally rather than stressing emotions. He avoids the "artistic" and the "dramatic," faithfully expressing what he sees and feels as an ordinary person. He puts it this way: "Photography is a game of light and shadow, a mechanical documentary activity. As long as you've got the light and the focus right, just press the button and you'll have a memory for all eternity."
Says Hsu: "Photography has been a refreshing outdoor activity for me mentally and physically, allowing me to express my inner thoughts and feelings in the face of Nature." His insistence that his works are a form of "recreation" and "relaxation" rather than "art" is candid and forthright.
Sketches of ordinary people at work, of local customs, of the natural world, and of folk activities make up the bulk of Hsu's vast corpus of work. His pictures maintain a certain distance in viewpoint, neither far nor near, a calm detachment, and a sense of the fortuitous.
Many of his pictures give us the feeling that they were taken as soon as he came upon the scene, without much deliberation or hesitation, from the position of first impression, and that he moved on as soon as they were done.
The most outstanding express some information, such as details of a person's movements or temperament, a display of emotions, or an incident and its local color.
In "Mischievous," the pouting child with frown and closed eyes, the chalk pictures on the telephone pole, and the interesting pattern of the fish net against his skin ingeniously portray the flavor of growing up in a fishing family.
Another country child, in "Dark Glasses," looks quite the little adult in her fashionable get up, as she "steps out" on the town, attracting another girl's half-curious, half-disapproving glance: a humorously expressed encounter between the old and the new.
The two modern women in "Going Back to Mother's" display styles of dress and bearing common in the early 1960's. The young woman's suitcase, flowers, hat, young woman's suitcase, flowers, hat, sweater, and pocketbook, and the older woman's scarf, overcoat, gloves, and cane, together with their different expressions and their hurried strides, seem tactfully to recount some story of the times.
The old woman smiling timidly in "The Taste of a Smoke," the miner shouldering a pick in "Off Work," the herbal medicine vendor with a poisonous snake wrapped around his neck in "The Snake Man," the old woman on the chair and the grandmother with her grandson waiting for the play to begin in "Waiting"--these figures, revealing people's natural expressions and a taste of their lives, display some of the ways that simple, realistic photographs can move us so deeply.
Two years ago, over 60 of Hsu's photographs from the 1960's were carried in a newspaper as a series under the title "Steps of History," accompanied by an author's text, a series which was later published as a book called Memories. The text was lightly done and rather engaging, but in fact good photographs are often spoiled by attempts of this kind. Sometimes even a mere title is enough to inhibit the possibilities of reading a photograph, let alone a whole pile of strained and inappropriate prose.
"Pig Breeder Wang," "A Memory," and "Religious Festival," all from the book Memories, are each a fine portrayal of life among the people and require no textual or emotional elaboration. A good photograph can stand on its own.
Hsu Ts'ang-tse's natural, easygoing attitude toward realistic photography gives him a style without a style. At first glance, his pictures may not look like much, but repeated observation reveals their depth: a humble respect for the individual and a feeling for life's conditions that deserve our quiet comprehension.
Hsu Ts'ang-tse at age 30, 1960.
Off Work, 1959.
The Snake Man, 1959.
Going Back to Mother's, 1960.
Dark Glasses, 1962.
The Taste of a Smoke, 1960.
Pig Breeder Wang, 1959.
A Memory, 1964.
Religious Festival, 1963.