Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Mar 01 2016

The Nanjichang Photography Event

The Nanjichang International Photo event Craig Ferguson and I have been managing has been rather successful; our first photo walk was on January 24th, which turned out to be the COLDEST DAY EVAR. I was thinking nobody would show up, but many did. My Canadian friend Darren, in particular, seemed proudly under-dressed considering the fact that real, actual, god-damn SNOWFLAKES were floating down from the skies of downtown Taipei. We took the small group of a dozen-odd photographers around the community, up on the roof of the compact elementary school, where Dilip perched himself on an alarmingly rickety desk to get a shot of the rooftop skylights. We even took the group into the usually-forbidden Third-stage building, something which the residents usually refuse, as they make a sizable income from weddings, movies and TV shows for some reason. Inside, they were, in seeming defiance of the weather, washing the courtyard with soap and water.

Due to the extreme cold and worsening air quality, most people left after noon, but I still count it as a success. nanjichangStill, many people begged off because of the weather, so we decided to do it again, this time on February 20th. The weather was cloudy and threatening to drizzle, but we got a much better turnout. In fact, there were almost too many people; about 50 photographers showed up. We managed to fit everyone in the community center, but the borough chief had an emergency meeting and couldn’t give his normal introduction; his son managed in his place, though the chief is much better at it. I translated as well as I could, but I’m not great at such things.

We then tried to lead the group back to the school, but we lost half the people on the way as, being photographers, they just sort of naturally followed whatever caught their eye. One group seemed to have actually brought a young women with them to act as a model. And then, as school was in session that day to make up for the new year break, we weren’t allowed inside, much less up to the rooftop. By the time we got to the food bank, most everyone had wandered off, which I guess was fine. Later, with the assistance of the borough warden, who had returned from his meeting, I led a much smaller group into the third-stage and second-stage buildings. This was just as well, as I doubt they would have let a larger group in, and certainly not without the warden.

As leading large groups of photographers is not conducive to actually photographing, I didn’t really take any photos myself during the events, so I decided to join two photographer friends, Hubert Kilian and David Thompson, on a leisurely stroll around the community afterwards. Hubert and David often go out shooting together, and know each other’s styles enough to keep out of each other’s way, but I apparently threw a monkey wrench into their carefully coordinated shooting ballet as I always seemed somehow to be in the way of their shots.

It was a lot of fun, though. We had some delicious dumplings at the Xiu-chang restaurant, and then some coffee at a corner cafe, but most of the time was just wandering around and chatting with people and me being in the wrong place at the wrong time just when they wanted to take a shot of something. David is a very thoughtful shooter, taking his time before he shoots as well as when actually shooting, whereas Hubert, who also puts a lot of thought into his shots beforehand, seems more aggressive in pursuing what he wants in the frame. I generally shoot first, instinctively, and ask questions (of myself about the shot) later.

The upper levels of the second-stage building were particularly interesting, though I’d gone inside before with Chenbl, Ewan, Qi-hua and Linda. The designers apparently didn’t want to mar the exterior of their masterpiece with things like exhaust vents, so all the kitchens and bathrooms vent right into the corridors. After decades of this, the hallways are black with soot, the water heaters wrapped in little cages to prevent theft, though the washing machines are left unprotected. We met one old mainlander from Qingdao who told us we should get the hell out of Taiwan now before China bombed us to smithereens. We said we’d look into it.

Submissions from all the photographers have been pouring in over the last week, and there are some very nice shots; I think the exhibition will be quite impressive. Hopefully all of this will raise public awareness of this little-noticed community, the first of its kind in Taipei, before it’s consigned to history by the city government’s urban development plans.

posted by Poagao at 11:02 am  

1 Comment »

  1. When and how do we submit to the exhibition? I didn’t have time on the second date to go… but would like to submit some pictures that I took at another time?


    Comment by Kenneth — March 4, 2016 @ 12:43 pm

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