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Mirror Image/ World Image: Master Photographers and Their Works in the NMH Collection

  • UpdateTime:2018-10-02

Photography was born when the French photographer Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre invented the daguerreotype in 1839, hailed by the French people as “the mirror with a memory.” In 1848 the Dutch merchant ships brought the “dark room” to Japan and initiated the development of photography in Japan. As Taiwan became the colony of Japan in 1895, the dry plate photography was introduced into Taiwan. Photography, a mirror that reflects images of the world, changes the way people record history; it tells people’s life stories with images and sustains our memories.


History of photography in Taiwan began with the 19th Century: foreigners from beyond the ocean captured a variety of images for the purposes of research or investigation. At that time, Taiwan remained in the condition of "being seen," as glimpses in the stories of adventurers or colonizers. The real contact between Taiwanese and photography took place during the Japanese colonial period, when the colonizing government introduced photography as a means to assist control and governance. Japanese photographers came to Taiwan to establish photography studios and trained Taiwanese apprentices; after learning this trade, these apprentices became the first Taiwanese photographers. In this Exhibition, we present works by Lin Cao, the first Taiwanese photographer who established studio in Taiwan. He founded his “Lin’s Photography Studio” in Taichung in 1901, which was passed on to his son Lin Chuan-chu and his offspring. Closed in 2003, Lin’s Photography Studio was the quintessential century-old shop of Taiwan and one of the oldest photography studios. In the Japanese rule period, some of the local elites studied photography in Japan and returned to Taiwan to open their own business; others taught themselves the art of photography and became amateur photographers. The precious images they left behind record folk life of that time and witness the process through which Taiwanese evolve from the passive object of colonizing gaze to photographers with subjective agency in control of the camera.


This exhibition showcases early works of documentary photography in Taiwan from 1910s to 1970s. These images represent the photographers’ care for the land and people with their undisguised composition. To highlight the local culture of Hsinchu, we select for this exhibition a series of works by Deng Nan-guang, a master photographer born in Beipu, Hsinchu. In his youth he went to study in the Department of Economy, Hosei University, Tokyo, where he joined a photography club and experienced firsthand the new trend of photography in Japan. He abandoned the aesthetic style of the salon and focused his camera on the people and things he felt familiar with. From the Beipu Series of this exhibition, we can experience how Deng observed the festival theater of his hometown with gentle and undisguised views. In his works about ordinary working people, we see how Deng chose another perspective to capture their devoted attitudes and different sides of their lives. Also included in this exhibition, besides other documentary photographers, are works by Zhang Cai and Li Ming-diao, who, along with Deng, were referred to as “The Three Musketeers of Photography.” With these classic works, we can follow the steps of these master photographers of Taiwan and experience how they pursued liberty, authenticity, and beauty in those years.


This is the first cooperation between the National Hsinchu Living Arts Center and the National Museum of History. The Exhibition, consisting of 50 sets of works by Taiwanese master photographers in NMH collection, aims to provide a rich visual banquet for audience in Hsinchu. We hope this exhibition can offer a context to understand the early development of photography in Taiwan; we also hope these classic documentary images can inspire audience to closely observe and record little things happening daily around themselves.

Time: 2018/10/05-2018/11/20

Venue: National Hsinchu Living Arts Center

Opening Hours: From Monday to Sunday, 9:00 to 17:00