Best Shots

Local Photography Festivals

2018 / November

Cathy Teng /photos courtesy of Chuang Kung-ju /tr. by Phil Newell

The second half of 2008 is an exciting time for photography in Taiwan. From north to south, a series of photography festivals have been organized, both by private-­sector groups and by government. They offer both international perspectives and local cross-disciplinary activities, and feature both established masters and up-and-coming practitioners. This year’s events present a feast for the eyes, aiming to serve up diverse perspectives that stimulate society’s imagination.


Perhaps the best-known photography festival worldwide is “Les Rencontres d’Arles,” also known as the Arles Photography Festival, which started in 1970 and has brought fame to the small town of Arles in southern France. The festival is not only an important event for interactions in the world of photo­graphy, but also a fine example of the successful marketing of a city.

In recent years, cities in Asia—including Bangkok, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Ping­yao—have gotten aboard the photography festival train. Taiwanese photography festivals have independently developed their own special features, and aim to cultivate their own styles.

Taipei Photo: Art on street corners

The Tai­pei International Photo­graphy Festival (Tai­pei Photo, October 18-30), was first staged in 1990 and is Taiwan’s oldest photography festival. Since taking over as president of The Society Photographic Aesthetic Chinese (TSPAC) and as art director of Taipei Photo in 2016, Kang Tai­sen has pioneered a new image for the festival.

With salt-and-pepper hair and a distinguished appearance, Kang has spent virtually all of his time since retiring and taking on the presidency of TSPAC in thinking about the positioning of Taipei Photo. “I see it as a fusion between an exhibition of classic works and a festival. Moreover, it has to match the characteristics of our city,” he says with calm confidence.

Taipei is Taiwan’s leading city both economically and culturally, and has an active arts scene. Moreover, it has a mature body of art galleries. Taking advantage of this fact, Kang came up with the idea of designing the Tai­pei Photography Art Map, inviting willing galleries to hold small-scale photography shows during Tai­pei Photo, to create opportunities for citizens to encounter photography on the streets of Tai­pei.

In 2016 12 galleries took part, and in 2018 this number has grown to 20, including the Jazz Image gallery, the Han­zhong outlet of Starbucks, and the Galerie Grand Siècle.

Beyond the festival’s foray into the street spaces of serendipitous encounters, this year’s theme for Taipei Photo was “Borderless,” which implies “expansion,” “evolution,” and “extension.” This is why Kang invited the Hong Kong independent curator Chun Wai to arrange the “Exhibition of Contemporary Photographers from Latin America.” Kang says: “Amid political and economic instability in Latin America, photographers use fabricated narratives to critique current events, but also express themselves through sur­real­ist techniques. You will feel attracted to these works from the first time you see them—they are ­stunning.”

The festival’s main exhibition of domestic photography, curated by Chiu Kuo-chun, was entitled “Contemporary Photography in Taiwan.” This show explored how photographers, under the impact of the digital revolution and technology, are breaking the boundaries of different substrate materials to create cross-disciplinary combinations of photography with multimedia.

Kang Tai­sen, who until his retirement taught in the Department of Fine Arts at National Taiwan Normal University and has long promoted art education, believes that children’s aesthetic sense must be cultivated from an early age, to train a pair of observant eyes. Therefore, besides having the “Emerging Photographers’ Award” to encourage the new generation of photographers, Taipei Photo also targets a younger age group with “Little Photographers: The National Primary School Students Photography Competition.” This has become one of the festival’s unique features.

Government-sponsored festival

Kaohsiung Photo, which opened in mid-October, is Taiwan’s first government-organized photography festival. It is being put on by the Kao­hsiung City Bureau of Cultural Affairs, which commissioned curators Ma Li-chun, Momo Deng, and Chiu Kuo-chun to stage the event at the Pier-2 Art Center.

Kaohsiung Photo includes exhibits such as “Special Feature: ‘Photographs of the Heyday’—Frank C. Chen” and “At Anchor in Kao­hsiung—Zero Point Photography Club and Local Perspective Local Art Creation,” both of which reconnect with the old city of Kao­hsiung by using images to call up Kao­hsiung’s past.

Frank Chen (1899‡1993) was born into the Chen family of Kao­hsiung, one of Taiwan’s five great families of that time. After WWII he was appointed mayor of Kao­hsiung City. Kaohsiung Medical College (now Kao­hsiung Medical University) was founded thanks to large donations from Chen, and he was also one of the founders, along with Ko Si Chi, of the Photographic Society of Kao­hsiung. Because of his status, Chen was able to capture images that were inaccessible to many private pho­to­graph­ers, making his record of the many faces of Kao­hsiung especially meaningful.

As a port city, Kao­hsiung absorbs a lot of foreign culture. Kao­hsiung Photo not only includes a dialogue with the international community through the show “A World-Class Master in Asia / Special Feature: Ei­koh Ho­soe,” but also an exhibition curated by Ma Li-chun and Su Yue­zhuo entitled “Carrier: A Joint Exhibition of Cutting-Edge Contemporary Photography in Asia.” This latter show is built around the theme of the “carrier” or substrate. By using substrate materials with different characteristics the artists produce unique viewing experiences, and create new meanings for viewers.

Kaohsiung Photo would naturally be incomplete without excursions into photographic history. In the exhibition “Flowing Deformation of Time—Profile of Contemporary Photography in Taiwan,” Chiu Kuo-chun seeks to respond to questions about the situation of contemporary photography in Taiwan, using images captured in different times and locations to display Taiwan’s multifaceted history.

Ma Li-chun explains that the main target audience for the festival is the general public, but also, because it is organized by the government, there is a special emphasis on the promotion of, and education in, photographic culture. As a practitioner himself, Ma places great importance on guiding the new generation of photographers. He has organized a special joint exhibition of the new generation of photographers, entitled “Young Photo,” for Kao­hsiung Photo, hoping the festival content will inspire new thinking about images among the young. “Photography is a kind of provocation. When you see a great work, you will be provoked to think about whether your own work is actually good. This is the main significance of the photography festival in terms of education,” says Ma.

Tainan International Foto Festival

The Tainan International Foto Festival (TiFF) will run from mid-­November 2018 to April 2019. Like Kao­hsiung Photo, it is a government-organized­ event. TiFF is also looking ahead to the 400th anniversary of the founding of Tai­nan City in 2024, and an eight-year plan has been proposed.

Chief curator Albert J.L. ­Huang recalls how he changed his mind after initially declining the Tai­nan City Cultural Affairs Bureau’s invitation to curate the festival. “Cultural identity” is a core value that he has been concerned about for many years, but Taiwan’s sense of cultural identity has always been embarrassingly unclear. He thought about the example of the United States, a young country with only 200-plus years of history, where visual imagery has been an important tool in forming a national consciousness. He felt that Taiwan perhaps has the opportunity, by eight years of effort, to build its cultural identity through photography. It was these second thoughts that caused him to accept the post of chief curator.

However, although Tai­nan has always been called the cultural capital of Taiwan, and is also the city through which Western photographic techniques first arrived in the island, it has never had a special status in the history of Taiwanese photography. In order to define Tai­nan’s place in that history, the organizers first put their hand to planning the “Keynote Photographer” series.

The first to drop anchor in Tai­­nan was Hsu Yuan-fu (1932‡2018), who was noted as early as 1988 by ­Chang Chao-tang in his book In Search of Photos Past.

During his photographic career of more than 40 years, Hsu Yuan-fu shot in both black-and-white and color, and covered diverse themes ranging from documentary photographs to commercial photography. In the 1960s he submitted works to Japanese magazines, and for a long period he dedicated himself to photography education and extension. Over his lifetime he witnessed the development of photo­graphy in Tainan, and was important in transmitting the legacy of the past to the next generation. At the end of April an exhibition entitled “Keynote Photographers: Hsu Yuan-fu” opened at the Sou­langh Cultural Park, marking the first step in a discourse about photography in Tai­nan.

The main theme of TiFF will be “Kun-shen Unveiled” (kun­shen, or khun-sin in Taiwanese, is a name for the sandbars that are a feature of Tai­nan’s coast). The exhibitions that will appear in November all revolve around the keyword “Tai­nan.” Albert ­Huang has put the focus on the creative work of a new generation of photographers, and he sought out photographers from Tai­nan, including Chen Chin-pao, ­Chuang Kung-ju and ­Chang Shih-fei. Tai­nan is the cultural soil that they grew up in, and they look at Tai­nan from their own angles. For “On Location, Tai­nan” TiFF invited a number of young creators, including Yang Shun-fa, ­Huang ­Chien-lung, ­Jhang Jing-hong, and Lee Li-­chung, who use different forms and points of contact to present the Tai­nan that is in their hearts and minds, whether in the past, present or future.

“TiFF is a platform, and I hope it is a kind of approbation for photography as a whole,” says ­Huang. He hopes that through the different themes of the festival’s exhibitions, creative works of different categories, focusing on different issues, can interact and engage in dialogue. Be it journalistic photography, salon photography, or art photography, all will have a place at TiFF and all will receive affirmation.

Step by step, ­Huang is delineating the contours of an eight-year blueprint. He looks forward to people using photography to affirm their own culture through networking and dialogue. He also wants to go a step further and build a photography ecosystem, because “what we plant will only grow if there is an ecosystem. It won’t be easy, but we are surely going to try,” says Huang.

Relevant articles

Recent Articles

日本語 繁體



文・鄧慧純 写真・莊坤儒 翻訳・山口 雪菜




















馬立群は、写真フェスティバルの対象は一般大衆だが、公的部門の主催であるため、写真文化の推進と教育という面も重視したと語る。多くの経験を積んできた立場から、若手写真家の育成も重視している。2016年の台北写真フェスティバルで、彼がワンダー・フォト・デイとして国際写真芸術交流展を開催した時に、若い世代がこうした交流の舞台を強く求めていることがわかった。だが、回を重ねるに連れ、若い世代から応募される作品が、小さな世界をとらえたものが多いことに気付き、そこで今回のフェスティバルでは若手写真家の合同展YOUNG PHOTOと連携し、写真フェスティバルのコンテンツを通して若い世代の写真に対するイメージを刺激したいと考えた。「写真は一つの刺激であり、素晴らしい作品を見た時に自分の作品が良いかどうか反省できるのです。これが写真フェスティバルの教育面での意義と言えるでしょう」と馬立群は言う。












文‧鄧慧純 圖‧莊坤儒























馬立群解釋攝影節的對象是社會大眾,又因為是官方主辦,會特別注重攝影文化的推廣與教育。身為過來人,他重視新生代攝影家的提攜。2016年他創辦台北國際攝影藝術交流展Wonder Foto Day,發現年輕人很需要這樣交流的舞台;但他也從幾屆的徵件內容中發現作品內容偏向小確幸、小清新風格,不夠多元是其可惜之處,馬立群因此規劃在高雄攝影節中搭配新生代攝影工作者聯展YOUNG PHOTO,希望藉由攝影節的內容刺激年輕人對於影像新的想法。「攝影就是一種刺激,看到很棒的作品,會刺激你反思自己的作品到底好不好,這就是攝影節主要的教育意義。」馬立群說。








攝影節以「鯤鯓顯影」(Kun-shen Unveiled)為主題,接續於11月登場的子題皆環繞著「台南」為關鍵字。黃建亮關注新生代攝影家的創作,他找尋台南出身的攝影家,如陳敬寶、莊坤儒、張士飛等,台南是他們的文化養分,從他們視角再面對台南。「台南現場」則是邀選以台南為主題的創作者,如楊順發的「地層下陷」,黃建龍的台鹽老照片、張景泓長期關注的廟宇儀式,李立中利用養鴿子的經歷同時進行創作,還有林伯樑、吳孟真、黃子欽等多位創作者,他們用不同的形式、切點去呈現心中關切的台南,無論是當下的,還有過去和未來。



X 使用【台灣光華雜誌】APP!