Taiwan: Top Destinations for the Cultural Traveler
Photographer Yingting Shih's daughters run around a giant Buddha at the Karma Kagyu Monastery in Tainan. (Yingting Shih)
An elderly woman sells idols in Hsinchu. (Yingting Shih)
A man applies paint to a three-story building in Nantou; a goddess from the decorated archway next door looks on. (Yingting Shih)
One of Shih's daughters looks inquisitively at a wall. (Yingting Shih)
A young daredevil jumps from a bridge in Houtong Coal Mine Ecological Park, New Taipei. The building to the right reads: "Workplace safety is everyone's safety." (Yingting Shih)
A woman looks out onto an alley from her room in a military dependents' village. (Yingting Shih)
Three boys play in a fountain. (Yingting Shih)
A sidewalk vendor, known as a "betel nut beauty," sells snacks on a curb in New Taipei. (Yingting Shih)
An insect crawls over kariba weed leaves. (Yingting Shih)
Water reflects dead lotus stalks. (Yingting Shih)
A man unloads watermelons from a truck in Taoyuan. (Yingting Shih)
A window in Lin Jia Historical House, Taoyuan, looks into another room where a man sits. (Yingting Shih)
Sun shines on Wuzhi Mountain in Hsinchu. (Yingting Shih)
A woman sells flowers of white jade orchid trees from the middle of the road in Taoyuan. (Yingting Shih)
Young hikers soak up views of the Taipei 101 building from Xiangshan, or "Elephant Mountain." (Yingting Shih)
A woman browses a selection of bags and hats at the Wufenpu wholesale market in Taipei. (Yingting Shih)
A man walks through a tunnel of trees and grass in Yangmingshan National Park. (Yingting Shih)
Taipei Children's Amusement Park, seen from a Ferris wheel (Yingting Shih)
Workers build a factory in Taoyuan. (Yingting Shih)
A bird flies over the 17 Kilometers Splendid Coastline Scenic Area in Hsinchu at sunset. (Yingting Shih)
Shih's daughters play at the Taipei Children's Recreation Center, which closed in 2014. (Yingting Shih)
Birds perch on a statue of Lei Gong, the Taoist god of thunder, in Tainan. (Yingting Shih)

These Eclectic Images Reveal Taiwan’s Many Moods

A highlight from our photo contest: Local photographer Yingting Shih captures surprising and unique moments in his travels

smithsonian.com

Eleven years ago, Yingting Shih began teaching photography basics at the China University of Technology of Taiwan, but seldom took pictures outside of family events. Five years later, he decided to try his hand at photography, entering international competitions as a means to encourage his students.

Now, Shih travels throughout Taiwan and photographs almost every chance he gets.

His portfolio ranges from lush scenery to candid moments of people on a street to industrial cityscapes. His images are colorful, and they are muted; they are loud, and they are quiet. Whatever catches his eye, he shoots.

Running through his photos is a theme of old and new – in one image, a man applies a fresh coat of paint to a three-story building, as a statue of a deity looks at him from an older, decorated archway. In another, his daughters run beneath a giant Buddha statue, small bastions of modern life whizzing by a fixture of the past. Shih’s lens settles both on the tired gaze of a vendor, and the excited eyes of his young daughters; on the trapped expression of a woman gazing out of her window, and on boys splashing freely in a fountain.

In a particularly striking image, an elderly man sits in his living room in a military dependents' village watching TV. Beginning in the 1940s, Taiwan's government erected these communities to house the families of Chinese Nationalist forces. In the 1990s, Shih explains, the government began a program to relocate remaining residents. Three years ago, he visited twenty or so abandoned villages and found that most inhabitants had moved out, with a few exceptions. “I saw this old man sitting in the living room and watching TV,” he says. “I tried to reserve [sic] the aura of abandonment and express the feeling of solitude out there.”

Shih tells his students that “a good photographer should do his best to reveal our world creatively.” A photo of lotus stalks reflected in water ranks among his best examples of this "creative revelation," he says.

Together, his images paint Taiwan as a land of contrasts, of many colors and characters. Shih resides in Taoyuan, but was born in Tainan and hopes for the chance to photograph for his hometown in the future. “I have a lot of great memories in that city,” he says.

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An elderly man sits in his living room in a military dependents' village, watching TV. (Yingting Shih)
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