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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