Taipei Air Station - 1966 - - - " What you have in the end are memories"......... Photo Courtesy of Richard Reesh.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Negative Approach

Why don't you take more pictures?  How many sights have you seen in your stay in Taiwan which filled you with awe when you first arrived, which have become so common place that you don't even see them anymore?

Those are the things that you will tell your friends about when you return home, and will you feel silly when they ask to see a picture of which some of you will not have any.  Ungrammatical, but to the point.

I am sure that everyone has taken pictures of the cherry blossoms as they come into bloom in the various scenic spots near Taipei.  You must have taken pictures of Taipei Zoo, Double Ten Day, New Year's decorations, the Presidential Building, City Hall, your neighbor's kids and the dog burying a bone in the petunia bed.  But what about some of the really important "Chinese" and "Taiwanese" things, which you will never see in Central Park, or Washington DC or in the Grand Canyon?

Having returned to the States "several times" and having as many times been embarrassed by the situation described above, I have resolved to take some of the following pictures for self-protection, to provide an interesting evening when the TV set is out of order, or to be honest, to stimulate my memory.

Let's start with your home.  What about the sliding, glass doors, or better paper ones?  Try describing those sometime to people with a drawing board - or a snapshot- handy.  You will tell people about your cook, or maid or driver, won't you?  Take a picture to help yourself out.  Other things about the house?  May I suggest the cement "pagoda" beside the fish pond, the brick wall with the "broken-glass fringe on top," - or tatami floors?

Now hit and miss, general pictures.

The old man with the long, flowing beard, dressed in old-fashioned Chinese clothes and asleep in the park bench.  Or the cunning trousers designed for toddlers with the convenient gap from the back of the belt to the naval.  Or those summer fashions for the same tots, complete with broad, beaming smile, bib embroidered with forget-me-nots - which ends at the hips, with no trousers at all.

How many of your friends have seen a pedicab?  Boy, will you be surprised at the answer, let alone those who have seen one of the rickshaws which are now so rarely found in Taipei.  Snapshots of the food-market, the theater district, school letting out in the afternoon.

A street scene, including all the signs in Chinese, and one or two in English.  Lovers strolling through the park - Taiwan Fashion.  An old fashioned funeral, with the uniformed band, the hired, white-clad mourners and the flowers - or the Taoist special with the body dressed and propped in a sedan-chair - or if you are lucky, the Taoist De-luxe, with the body seated in state in a porcelain jar with a glass window in front - for passers-by to see and admire.

Look around, and with apologies to Omar Khayyam remember, "The stars are setting, and the Caravan starts for the dawn of nothing - Oh, make haste!"  Or more fitting,  to remember the good, old Chinese proverb, "One pictures tells more than a thousand words!"

How about letting your camera speak for you?  

Reprinted with permission


Joe Brooks writes of Taipei as it was in the mid 1950s when this article was published.   

Find more information about Joe Brooks and this series of articles HERE

Editor's Note:  Always looking for Photographs and stories of your time in Taiwan..

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