紅妝寫真第一人——陳麗鴻

:::

1993 / 2月

文‧蕭容慧 圖‧陳麗鴻提供


她不懂女權運動,也不知女性主義為何物,卻曉得在父權社會中實踐「獨立自主、活得精采」的女子兵法。

陳麗鴻,日據時代以降至一九四五年,經營寫真館、碩果僅存的女性攝影,是怎樣在男性獨大的攝影世界中,獲得一璧江山?


台北市承德路三段藏座著一家老式的照相館——麗鴻照相館。沒有大櫥窗的冷清店面,排場在在比不上號稱「新娘街」的愛國東路;窄小的攝影棚,既無花團錦簇,也不羅曼蒂克。連架上擺出來的最新照片,影中人都還穿著十幾、廿年前的衣款。

大部分的客人上門,都是衝著角落那台影印機。偶見拍照的顧客,所需也只是不太講究技術的證照。

誰能想像「麗鴻照相館」當年在繁華熱鬧的太平町(今延平北路)甫開幕時,車如流水馬如龍的風光?而老闆陳麗鴻,正是台灣有史以來第一位開照相館的女性,也是日據時代極少數赴日留學的女攝影之一。

問及今昔的對比,氣質優雅、風韻雍容的陳麗鴻淡淡地說:「我都快七十了,生意早就交給下一代了」,她表示,如今生意主力擺在婚喪喜慶和會議錄影,她又忙於社團、公益活動,拍照、洗照成了「副業」,也就不再那麼注重店面的陳設。

話雖如此,仍有老客人指名要陳麗鴻拍照。「奇怪喲,在這堜蝷[了,到別人那兒都不習慣」,一位六十歲左右的女士像在喃喃自語,又像在向老闆邀功。

現任台北市商業會理事、照相公會常務理事的陳麗鴻,生來美人胚,卻一生未婚,膝下有數位孝順的養子、養女、與契子、契女。她的故事,也是攝影圈中津津樂道的傳奇……。

十五歲出道

陳麗鴻來自台北縣新店的淳樸農戶。父親雖務農,卻曾在總統府當過職員,也擔任老家的里長,因而觀念、視野比一般莊稼人開通。也因他罹患心臟病,一直深富憂患意識,為了兒女的將來盤算,他希望唯一的女兒能否得一技之長,有獨立生活的本錢。

陳父有二個堂弟從事畫像、拍照的工作,頗具名氣;加上日據時代在台灣就讀日本女子家教學校的陳麗鴻,也具繪畫的興趣和才能,便鼓勵女兒跟著學。

台灣早期寫真師,不少是由「畫像」入門,而改接觸寫真術。陳麗鴻就是一例。

拿回顧客的小張照片,得需依比例放大繪畫;如客人沒照片,就要先替對方拍好照再來畫。畫一張照片,短則三兩天,長則十餘日。陳麗鴻整日埋首伏案,常累得吃不下飯,很快把胃也搞壞了。陳父看在眼中,疼在心裡,勸她乾脆直接去拍照,別再畫像了。

領到父親出資買的平生第一架照相機,陳麗鴻很是珍惜。

十六歲的她開始跟著堂叔,假日年節到木柵指南宮,為香客、遊客拍團體照。瘦小的她,清晨從新店搭車到景美,再背著大型相機、三腳架和一盒便當爬上指南宮。

香火鼎盛的指南宮前,平日約有十幾個攝影師候著,陳麗鴻萬綠叢中一點紅,加上年紀又輕,常引得遊客的好奇和注意,心想一定有兩把刷子才敢和其他男士競爭,於是爭著讓她拍照。

從早上十點忙到下午四、五點,遊人逐漸散去。陳麗鴻在夕陽餘暉中點收一天的成績,滿足地打道回府。為了怕弄壞器材,她不敢像別的大哥大叔把相機寄放在寺廟附近,寧願每天扛背。到了車站,父親就候在那兒,會有大手把沈重的器材接過去。

第一志願——留日

和指南宮前的攝影師熟絡後,老前輩們鼓勵她到日本進修。陳麗鴻的心魂,開始有了方向和寄託。雖然她把拍照賺來的錢繳交父親的公庫,再領零用金花用,但此後拍起照來,全身的勁兒都不一樣了。

修整底片,在日據時代是寫真營業最重要的技術之一,功夫好,客人臉上的皺紋、麻子都可消失,不但能影響照片質感的呈現,也決定了往後生意的好壞。

她聽說申請日本的寫真學校,必須參加入學考試——修整一張底片。於是想辦法透過安排,到台北市一家有名的照相館學了半年。邊學邊做,一個月下來,也能賺到廿元左右的工資。「當年的五斤豬肉,也不過一塊錢」,陳麗鴻計算著。

聽說一個女孩子家要獨自出國,震驚的陳氏家族屢見反對聲浪。在陳父的獨排眾議下,十八歲的陳麗鴻於民國卅二年,在基隆港坐了四天三夜的船,一路昏昏沈沈地到了日本。

班上七十二個學生中,只有四位女生;也唯有她和另二位男同學來自台灣。面貌姣好、年輕沉靜的陳麗鴻,是男生目光的焦點。那時候民風保守,來上寫真學校的日人多屬有錢有閒的中上家庭。女學生來此,總被認為是學「趣味」的,消磨時間而已,因此男同學很少以嚴肅的心態相待。

雖然有人對陳麗鴻很友善,生活課業幫不少忙,但捉狹的、亂吃豆腐尋開心的、寄情書的更比比皆是。外柔內剛的她,一怒之下向老師告狀。有天老師神色凝重地宣佈,任何男同學只要經陳麗鴻投訴二次,即下令退學。「嚇得他們好一陣子不敢跟我說話!」陳麗鴻笑道。

企圖心旺、學習力強

在老師的指導下,她修底片的功夫越來越純熟。老師在欣賞之餘,介紹她不少打工的機會。一邊上課,一邊修底片賺零用錢。每逢年節或父母壽辰,她還寄錢回家。

攝影技術更上層樓後,她深感「週邊軟體」的認識不足,決定多花些時間研修廣告等有關課程。

一年後,她從東洋寫真學校畢業,旋即進入研究班學商業攝影和印刷廣告。學校的課程包羅萬象,除了攝影,還有電影等相關科目。陳麗鴻被分派至日本有名的松竹電影製片廠實習、觀摩劇照拍攝時,被人拉去試鏡。製作人眼晴一亮,當下邀請上相的她當演員、拍電影。「家堣贊成,因為父親說當明星沒什麼好下場」,陳麗鴻只好死了這條心。為了怕她真地走上演藝界,家人電催陳麗鴻儘早返鄉。

二次世界大戰爆發後,戰火蔓延,到處物資缺乏,遑論照相器材和底片。一心想開店自立門戶的陳麗鴻,只好按捺住雄心,到新店市公所工作。每天把錢緊綁在褲頭,在防空壕與市公所間穿梭、逃難躲炸彈,「不敢想到前途!」她不勝欷歔地憶往。

民國卅四年,日本天皇透過收音機廣播,親口宣佈無條件投降。老百姓一時歡聲沸騰、喜極而泣。陳麗鴻心中的寫真館也開始有了雛型。

一鳴驚人

同年,她喜滋滋地領回新店市公所發的自願離職金,再加上家婺磣U,在人來人往的延平北路鬧區,擇日開店。聘請設計師刻意裝潢的挑高櫥窗、氣派門面,不但吸引路人,連同業也常派員前來觀摩,甚至模仿。

一位當年的老客人回憶:「店面時髦得不得了,光是去參觀一下也覺得爽!」

過了幾年,業務逐漸上了軌道。生意頭腦一流的陳麗鴻,深諳廣告的重要性,首開攝影圈的風氣,在報上登廣告促銷。自己也動腦參與文案作業。有幅廣告「麗鴻的小報導」在當時很先進的:

「新郎:大地春回,吾們的婚事,已受雙方家長喜諾了!

新婦:新婚儀式,要趕快辦理呢。

新郎:是!

新婦:攝影服裝,爾有準備麼?

新郎:哈,哈,沒有見過麗鴻的廣告?『入場攝影,禮服借用免費』……。聽說她畢業自東京專門照相學院,有日光、實景、電光三大特色,現代化設備,態度親切,兼有女辦務員三四名,慇勤接待,果然是台北唯一的照相場呢。

新婦:那是這樣,爾對她有約束期日麼?

新郎:有!有!決定舊正元旦,吾們雙雙攜手,攝一張又甜又蜜的結婚照相,留作永遠紀念罷。」

不少人拿著報紙,按圖索驥找上門來。

生意頭腦一流

通常客人一進門,陳麗鴻根據穿著打扮,稍加察言觀色,不待對方開口,就猜得出拍照的用途——這招常讓客人覺得老闆很內行。至於該打什麼燈,幫對方擺什麼姿勢,她也馬上心裡有譜,省下不少溝通的時間。

由於明白異性相吸的道理,陳麗鴻通常會安排男師傅拍女客,男客則由她掌鏡。「在異性面前,表情一定不一樣嘛!」陳麗鴻爽利地笑道,客人的心情很重要,這點必須事先考慮到。如有客人露出不太信任「女流」的神色,待拍攝後奉上名片一張,對方就會覺得「老闆出馬,很有面子」而皆大歡喜。

攝影棚堙A七、八盞燈場內侍候,二名助手忙著調光移燈,陳麗鴻作總指揮。她指出,人的臉有長短肥瘦,拍法都不同。像臉較短者,鏡頭從上往下拍,就有修正效果。而燈光也能使瘦者出現圓潤的感覺。拍照時,別讓客人等太久,否則對方表情會僵掉。夫妻合照,頭與肩的姿勢要「相望」而非相背,才有肩並肩的味道。至於阿公阿媽或較保守的人,打平燈不打髮燈,免得頭髮出現白光,被認為故意拍老或不祥……。

不停進修的陳麗鴻也曾二度赴日學美容。「攝影與美容有關」,陳麗鴻透露,早期拍結婚照,需替新娘化妝,如果事先打點漂亮些,事後修底片就不再那麼費工夫。在她的化妝術下,客人臉上風乾橘子皮、扁鼻、小眼、大嘴的瑕疵提前消失,省事不少。

那時候,普通照一組十元,藝術照十五元,而普通人月薪不過幾十元。麗鴻寫真場大發利市,客人拍照要先掛號,拿預約牌子;光是過年期間拍全家福照的利潤,就可以撐一整年。

女性管理,自成一家

一位同是日本東洋寫真學校畢業的老牌攝影家分析,陳麗鴻懂得以日本學校的學歷、媒體廣告和優待折扣來促銷,這是大多數一板一眼的男性攝影所無法想到的點子。

卅年間,麗鴻寫真館從五、六名師傅增添至十五、六位。有的師傅還請自香港,有的一待待了十幾年。在同行的眼中,陳老闆的管理頗有一套。

曾在日本商業研究班研究員工管理方法的陳麗鴻,在員工工作之初,每月即為對方存下離職金,做得越久,領得越多。年終也按表現分紅,不把利潤納入私囊。她還鼓勵成氣候的員工另起爐灶開店,甚至借給他們創業基金。「有家了嘛,開銷自然大,不能再當夥計了……古早的人很乖,從年輕做到老,通常是因為結婚了才自立門戶」,她說,那時也沒想到自己是不是在做好事,只知道這樣才有理!碰到遲遲不婚的師傅,她還親自扮起紅娘,前後撮合了四、五對。

被同為東洋寫真學校校友、也是老牌攝影家紀秀茂形容為「做人坦白、對待朋友『阿沙力』」的陳麗鴻,不但善於經營自己的生意,也因個性熱心爽邁,舉辦過不少活動,結交了很多朋友,後來還擔負起同業間協調糾紛的任務。「和氣」二字,不但為她生財,也促使她成為商業公會有史以來第一位女性理事長。

第一次出來競選照相公會理事長時,「已經當選了,人家不讓我做」,陳麗鴻說,有的同業仍存有大男人的觀念,覺得女性當頭沒面子,「還要說服我:事情可以讓我做,名字用別人的。」不服輸的她硬是接下棒子,不但做滿一任,還前後擔任四任公會理事長。

由於社會的變遷,充滿噱頭的新式結婚攝影的興起,日據時代老一輩攝影家中規中矩、講究光影的技術,已逐漸沒落。陳麗鴻決定修正經營方針,以拍錄影帶為主。從已逝的弟弟過繼來的兒子陳伯堂,成為她現在得力的助手。她也慢慢卸下掌門的責任,投身在社團活動中。由於她廣結善緣,生意依然源源不絕。

這輩子,不簡單

年近七旬,仍精神奕奕的陳麗鴻,回首來時路,「這一輩子不簡單」,她說。問她如何在男性唯尊的攝影圈屹立數十年?她偏著頭想了一想,帶著傳統女子的靦腆:「很敬業吧!」

在家人朋友的眼堙A陳麗鴻走的絕非中國女子的傳統道路。若說她這一生有任何遺憾,婚姻不知該算不算?

終生未婚的陳麗鴻,也曾在年輕時打開心扉,有過結婚的打算。

他是日本明治大學畢業的澎湖人,文質彬彬,兩人在一個宴會中認識,相談甚歡。在風氣保守的當年,他不但不反對陳麗鴻赴日進修,還支持她從事這門被人視為「拋頭露面」的行業,並時時為她打氣。然而二次大戰爆發,他被徵兵至南洋,此去生死不明。「聽說很多人在南洋得了怪病,死後被截肢火化、送回骨灰給台灣家人」,她幽幽說道:「可是他連骨灰也沒回來。」

提及伊人,陳麗鴻只能喃喃直呼「很可惜!」五十年匆匆過去,「現在,我唱唱卡拉OK,什麼都忘記了!」

平日豪爽開朗的她,在卡拉OK唱著日本歌曲「男子的純情」時,別人也很難看出這位攝影界女強人眼中,是否有淚。

〔圖片說明〕

P.25

(張良綱攝)

P.26

陳麗鴻赴日學攝影,在東洋寫真學校前拍下紀念照,時間是民國卅二年。

P.26

陳麗鴻(右一)與班上另外三朵花。在日據時代,女性學攝影,可謂少之又少。

P.28

台灣光復前,陳麗鴻在家中留影。

P.28

陳麗鴻擅以廣告招徠生意,這是男性攝影較少想到的點子。

P.29

女扮男裝,曾是日據時代寫真的流行時尚。圖為陳麗鴻本人。

P.30

陳麗鴻的畢業作品。她把黑白照修繪成彩照,由此可見其修片技巧。

P.31

陳麗鴻為客人拍攝的彩照,光影風格偏向中間歷次豐富的軟調。

相關文章

近期文章

EN

Always Ahead of Her Time: Chen Li-hung

Sunny Hsiao /photos courtesy of courtesy of Chen Li-hung /tr. by Robert Taylor

She knows nothing of the women's rights movement, nor yet what feminism means --but she does have a woman's practical strategy for "living an independent, rich life" in a patriarchal society.

How did Chen Li-hung, the only remaining woman photographer to have run her own studio in Taiwan during the Japanese occupation, manage to succeed in the all-male world of photography?


Tucked away on Section 3 of Taipei's Chengteh Road is an old-fashioned photo studio: the Li-hung Photographic Studio. This plain little shop, with no large display window, is no match for the sumptuous studios on Aikuo East Road, known to all as "Brides' Street"; its cramped studio is neither richly decorated nor romantic, and even the newest pictures on display all show people still dressed in styles a decade or two out of date.

Most of the customers who come in make a beeline for the photocopier in the corner. And the few patrons who come to have their picture taken just need technically undemanding I.D. photographs.

Who could guess that when the "Li-hung Photographic Studio" first opened in bustling Taipingting (now Yenping North Road), it attracted an endless stream of customers? Or that its owner, Chen Li-hung, was the first woman ever in Taiwan to open her own photo studio, and one of the very few female photographers to go to study in Japan during the Occupation?

When asked about this change of fortunes, the elegant, sprightly Chen Li-hung says lightly: "After all, I'm nearly seventy; I let the younger generation take over long ago." Most business nowadays, she says, is at weddings and funerals or filming conferences, and she is kept so busy with societies and charity work that shooting and developing photographs has become a "sideline" for her, and she doesn't pay so much attention to the studio's appearance.

Be that as it may, there are still old customers who insist on being photographed by Chen Li-hung herself. "It's a funny thing, but I've been coming here so long, I just can't get used to going to anyone else," a lady of about sixty says as if to herself, but with a hint of praise.

Chen Li-hung, now a director of the Taipei Chamber of Commerce and a standing director of the Taipei Photography Association, was always a pretty woman, but she never married; she is surrounded by several faithful adopted sons and daughters. Her story is a legend which those in photographic circles love to relate . . .

Starting a career at 15:

Chen Li-hung came from a farming family in Hsintien, Taipei County. But although her father worked the land, he had once worked at the Japanese Governor's Offices, and was headman of his home village, and so he had a more open mind and wider horizons than most farming folk. And because he suffered from heart disease and was always deeply aware of the need to make provisions for his children's future, he hoped his only daughter could learn a skill which would let her earn her own living.

Mr. Chen had two younger cousins who had built up quite a reputation as portrait artists and photographers; and as Chen Li-hung, who in occupied Taiwan was attending a Japanese home economics school for girls, was both interested in and good at drawing and painting, Mr. Chen encouraged his daughter to study with his cousins.

Many of Taiwan's early photographers started as portrait artists, and then became familiar with photographic techniques. Chen Li-hung is just such an example.

These portrait artists would work from a small photograph of their subject, from which they would draw a scaled-up version; if the customer had no photograph, they would first have to take the picture from which they would then work. Making one portrait from a photograph would take anywhere from two to ten days. Chen Li-hung would spend the whole day bent over her desk, and was often too tired even to eat, which soon ruined her stomach. Her father could not bear to see her go on like this, and advised her to give up portraiture and simply become a photographer.

When Chen Li-hung got the first camera she had ever owned, paid for by her father, she really treasured it.

At the age of only fifteen or sixteen, she began to go with her father's cousins to Chihnan Temple in Mucha at holidays and festivals, to take group photographs of the worshippers and sightseers. This skinny slip of a lass would take a bus from Hsintien to Chingmei at daybreak, and then, carrying her lunch pack and the outsized camera and tripod slung over her shoulder, she would climb up to Chihnan Temple.

The temple attracted worshippers from far and wide, and on most days there would be a dozen or so photographers touting for business outside. As the only girl among so many men, and being so young, Chen Li-hung often attracted the attention and curiosity of the sightseers. Figuring that she must be pretty talented to dare compete with all these men, they would rush to have her take their picture.

She would work busily from ten in the morning till four or five in the afternoon when the visitors gradually drifted away. In the fading glow of the sunset, Chen Li-hung would gather up her day's work and set off for home with satisfaction. For fear of her camera being damaged, she didn't dare to leave it in a store close to the temple as the other photographers did, but instead preferred to carry it to and fro on her shoulder every day. When the bus reached her stop, her father would be waiting there, his big hands ready to take the heavy load from her.

Her greatest dream--to study in Japan:

Once the photographers outside Chihnan Temple got to know her, the older men encouraged her to go and study in Japan. A new direction and purpose began to infuse Chen Li-hung's soul. She used to hand over the money she earned taking photographs to her father to help feed the family and only took back a little pocket money, but nevertheless, from then on she worked at her photography with a fresh vigor.

At the time of the Japanese occupation, retouching negatives was one of the most important skills in the photography business. A skilful retouch artist could make wrinkles and pockmarks disappear from a customer's face, which not only affected the quality of the photograph itself, but was also crucial to future business.

She heard that to get into a Japanese photography school she would have to sit an entrance exam: retouching a negative. So she managed to arrange to train for six months at a well-known photographic studio in Taipei City. By working as well as studying, she was able to earn around twenty Yuan a month. "In those days you could buy five pounds of pork for only one Yuan, " Chen Li-hung recalls.

The very idea of a young girl wanting to go abroad alone aroused a tumult of opposition from the outraged Chen family, but her father took her side, and in 1943, at the age of eighteen, Chen Li-hung sailed from Keelung harbor, and after four days and three nights at sea she arrived, dazed and seasick, in Japan.

Of the seventy-two students in her class, only four were girls; and only she and two other boys were from Taiwan. Pretty, young and quiet, Chen Li-hung became the focus of the male students' attention. In those old-fashioned times, the Japanese students at the photography school were mostly from well-to-do, leisured middle- to upper-class families. If girls came to study there it was assumed to be a pastime just " for fun," and so the male students rarely took them seriously.

Although some people were very friendly to Chen Li-hung, and gave her much help in and out of class, there were more who found it amusing to tease her, touch her immodestly or send her love letters. But she was tougher than she looked, and angrily complained to her teacher. One day the teacher sternly announced that any male student reported twice by Chen Li-hung would be expelled immediately. "They were so scared that for a while they didn't even dare speak to me!" Chen Li-hung remembers with a laugh.

An ambitious, able student:

Under her teachers' instruction, she grew more and more proficient at retouching. As well as praising her, her teachers found her many opportunities to put her talent to work. Out of class she would earn spending money by retouching negatives, and would even send money home at Chinese New Year and her parents' birthdays.

As her photographic technique improved, she felt more and more acutely that her knowledge of related areas was lacking, so she decided to devote some time to studying advertising and other relevant courses.

After one year, she graduated from the Toyo School of Photography, and then entered its graduate school to study commercial photography and print advertising. Courses at the school were wide-ranging; apart from photography, there were also cinematography and other related subjects. When Chen Li-hung was sent to the famous Matsutake film studios for practical training in stills photography, someone dragged her onto a set for a screen test. The producer's eyes opened wide with delight and he offered to hire this photogenic girl there and then as an actress, and start filming right away. But "my family didn't approve; Father said film stars don't come to a good end," so Chen Li-hung had no choice but to let that dream slip away. Worried that she would really pursue a career in film, her family telegraphed her to return home as soon as possible.

After World War II broke out, people went short of even the most basic things, never mind cameras and film. Chen Li-hung, whose only dream was to open her own studio, had no choice but to put aside her ambitions and go to work at Hsintien City Hall. Every day she would bind her money tightly in the waistband of her trousers, as she shuttled between the City Hall and the air raid dugout where she went to seek shelter from the bombs. "I didn't dare think about the future!" she recalls, unable to suppress a sigh.

In 1945 the Japanese Emperor went on the radio in person to announce Japan's unconditional surrender. Ordinary people filled the air with shouts of jubilation and wept tears of joy. And the photo studio which Chen Li-hung longed for began to take shape in her mind.

Setting the world on fire:

In the same year, putting together her voluntary severance pay from Hsintien City Hall and money given by her family, Chen Li-hung chose an auspicious day, and joyfully opened her studio in bustling downtown Yen-ping North Road. Her high window and stylish shopfront, which she had specially decorated by a designer, not only attracted passers-by; other photographers would often send someone to take a look and would even imitate her.

An old customer from those days remembers: "Her studio was ever so fashionable, it was worth going there just to see it!"

In a few years her business gradually became established. Chen Li-hung had a first-class head for business, and a deep sense of the importance of publicity; she was the first of Taiwan's photographers to promote her studio by advertising in the newspapers. She would take a hand in writing the advertisement texts too. One of her adverts, entitled "Li-hung Report," was very progressive for its time:

Fiance: Spring is here, and our parents have given their blessing to our marriage!

Fiancee: Then we should have our wedding right away!

Fiance: Absolutely!

Fiancee: Have you got the clothes for our wedding picture!

Fiance: Haha, haven't you seen Li-hung's ad? 'Suits and dresses provided free of charge when you come for your portrait with us" . . . I hear she graduated from a special photography school in Tokyo; we can choose daylight, natural background or electric light; they have all the latest equipment, the service is friendly, and there are three or four girl assistants who take care of everything; there's not another studio like it in all Taipei you know!

Fiancee: Well then, have you made an appointment with her?

Fiance: Yes, of course! I've chosen this coming New Year's Day; we'll go hand in hand, and she'll take such a sweet wedding picture, which we'll keep forever in memory of the day!

Quite a few people found their way to the studio with the newspaper still in their hand.

A first-class head for business:

The moment customers came in through the door, Chen Li-hung would size up the way they were dressed, how they spoke and the expression on their faces, and before they said it themselves, she would often have guessed what they wanted the photograph for; this made many customers feel that the boss here was a real expert. And she would immediately make up her mind as to what lighting to use and how to pose the subject, which saved a lot of time discussing these things.

Because she was aware of the attraction between the sexes, Chen Li-hung would usually have a male photographer photograph women customers, while she herself would photograph the men. "In front of the opposite sex, people just look different!" Chen Li-hung says with a straightforward laugh, explaining that the customer's mood is very important, and must be considered from the outset. If a subject appeared not to have much confidence in a woman photographer, then once Chen Li-hung had finished taking the pictures she would hand him her business card; the customer would always be flattered to see that he was being looked after by the boss herself, and go away feeling thoroughly pleased.

In the studio itself there were seven or eight lamps at the ready, with two assistants busily adjusting the light and moving the lamps according to Chen Li-hung's directions. She explains that depending on whether a subject's face is long or short, fat or thin, they have to be photographed differently. For instance, a short face can be compensated for by shooting downwards from above, and the right lighting can make a thin face seem fuller. One should never let subjects wait too long in front of the camera, or they will start to appear awkward. When taking a husband and wife, they should be positioned with their faces and shoulders towards each other, not turned away, to express their reliance on each other. And when photographing old or rather conservative people, one should only use level lighting, and not shine a light on their hair for fear of making it look white, or they may think one is deliberately making them appear older or ill-fated.

Chen Li-hung never stopped studying, and twice went to Japanto study cosmetics, for "photography and make-up are related." In the early days, when taking wedding photos, she would have to make up the bride's face; she reveals that if she made her look good to begin with, then it saved a great deal of work retouching the negative later. Under her skilled hands, minor defects such as dry, wrinkled skin, flat noses, small eyes or big mouths would be improved upon before a customer's picture was taken, saving a lot of effort later.

In those days, ordinary photographs were ten dollars a set, and deluxe photos fifteen dollars, while most people's wages were only a few dozen dollars a month. The Li-hung Studio did a roaring trade, with customers having to register and take an appointment card; just the takings from family group photographs at Chinese New Year would have been enough to keep the business afloat for the whole year.

A woman's touch in management:

One old and respected photographer, who like Chen Li-hung herself graduated from the Toyo School of Photography in Japan, comments that Chen Li-hung's secret lay in promoting her business by making skilful use of the prestige of studying in Japan, of media advertising and of special offers; these were ideas that would not even have occurred to many of the less imaginative male photographers.

Over thirty years, the Li-hung Studio grew from hiring five or six photographers to employing fifteen or sixteen. Some were even brought over from Hong Kong, and some stayed for ten years or more. Chen Li-hung's style of management was looked upon as something special by others in the business.

She had studied personnel management techniques at a business school in Japan, and from the time when an employee started working for her, she would deposit a monthly sum as severance pay, so that the longer a person stayed, the more they would collect when they left. At the end of each year she would also give a bonus according to performance, and not just pocket the profits herself. She would encourage her most talented employees to set up on their own, and would even lend them the money to do so. "Once they started a family, naturally they would need more money, so they couldn't go on working for someone else . . . . In the old days people were more settled, and might stay with one company all their working life; they would usually only set up on their own if they got married." She says that at the time she never thought about whether she was doing good deeds, she just knew it would have been wrong to do any different! When some of her photographers were slow to marry, she would even play the matchmaker herself, and over the years brought four or five couples together.

Described as "honest to everyone and absolutely straight with her friends" by Chi Hsiu-mao, another old-school photographer who also studied at Toyo School of Photography, Chen Li-hung was not only good at running her own business, but thanks to her characteristic enthusiasm and straightforwardness, and because she had organized various activities and made very many friends, in later years she was able to take on the role of peacemaker in disputes between members of her profession. Her love of harmony not only brought her success in her own business, it also helped make her the first woman ever to become chairperson of one of Taiwan's trade associations.

The first time she stood for election as chairwoman of the Taipei Photography Association, she says, "I was elected, but they didn't want to let me take the job." Some of her colleagues still had male chauvinist ideas, and felt that being led by a woman would be undignified; they "even tried to persuade me that I could do the work, but they should use someone else's name." But she did not give up so easily and insisted on taking on the job, completing not only her first term in office, but going on for a total of four terms as chairwoman of the association.

With social changes and the rise of the new style of wedding photography with all its tricks, the rigid stylistic rules and lighting techniques of the old generation of photographers trained during the Japanese occupation gradually fell from favor. Chen Li-hung decided to change her business strategy and concentrate on video filming. Her nephew Chen Po-tang, whom she raised after her younger brother's death, is now her right-hand man, and she has gradually relinquished her business responsibilities to devote herself to her work with civic organizations. But thanks to her wide circle of friends, her business continues to flourish.

"I've not done badly:

" Still full of vitality despite her almost seventy years, when Chen Li-hung looks back on her life, she says "I've not done badly." When asked how she has been able to hold a place of honor in the male-dominated world of photography for so many decades, she thought for a moment with her head to one side, then said with traditional Chinese feminine shyness: "By putting everything into my work, I suppose!"

In the eyes of her family and friends, Chen Li-hung's life has certainly not followed the path traditionally mapped out for a Chinese woman. If she has any regrets, is not having married one of them?

Chen Li-hung never married, but there was a time in her youth when she made wedding plans.

He was from Penghu, a graduate of Meiji University in Japan, well-mannered and sophisticated; they had met at a dinner party and got on like a house on fire. Unusually in those straightlaced days, he not only had nothing against Chen Li-hung studying in Japan, he approved of her working in photography, a business seen by many as unsuitable for a woman because it involved "showing one's face in public," and he often gave her words of encouragement. But when World WarII broke out, he was conscripted and sent to the South China Sea, and never came back. "They say that a lot of them caught strange diseases there; when they died they were dismembered and cremated, and their ashes sent back to their families in Taiwan." But in his case, she says faintly, "not even his ashes came back."

Reminded of him, Chen Li-hung can only say over and over again: "It was such a pity!" Fifty fleeting years on, she says, "Now I just sing karaoke, and I forget about everything!"

So unsentimental in everyday life, when she stands in the karaoke club and sings the Japanese song "A Man's Pure Love," who can discern whether a tear wets her eye?

[Picture Caption]

p.25

(photo by Vincent Chang)

p.26

Chen Li-Hung studied photography in Japan. This is a commemorative photo taken in front of the Toyo school; the year is 1943.

p.26

Chen Li-hung (first at right) had only three other female classmates. During the Japanese occupation, female photographers were rare indeed.

p.28

This is a photo of Chen in her home before retrocession.

p.28

Chen was especially skilled at using advertising to attract business, a point rarely thought of by male competitors.

p.29

Women dressed as men were the fashion of the times; this is a photo of Chen herself.

p.30

Chen Li-hung's graduation work: She made a black and white photo into a color one, showing her skilful retouching.

p.31

A color photo taken of a customer by Chen Li-hung. The lighting technique is mid-level, creating a richly soft effect.

X 使用【台灣光華雜誌】APP!
更快速更方便!