The National Taiwan Museum and the National Center of Photography have come together to hold "The Mirror of Time: Dry Plate Photography Exhibition," an exhibition focused on dry plate photography from the early to mid-20th century. Incorporating evolutions in photographic media, the exhibition captures life in early 20th-century Taiwan and the development of photography, and is the first exhibition of dry plate photography to focus on Taiwan during this period.
The Ministry of Culture launched the "Project for National Photographic Heritage Rescue and the Establishment of a Center for Photographic Culture" in 2015. Last year, the "Reconstruction of Art History" section of the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program incorporated photographic culture among its tasks, and currently inventories of such are being conducted, in hopes of compiling and promoting precious photographic assets through collection, study, preservation, and restoration.
Hung Shih-you (洪世佑), director of the National Taiwan Museum, explains that the museum currently holds some 7,700-plus pieces of early photographic and cultural assets. Among that collection are the particularly precious dry plate photographs. Taiwan's hot, humid climate makes both dry plate and film highly susceptible to deterioration, especially given the fragile nature of the glass used in the former. Completely preserving these precious negatives is no easy task, and as such Hung praised the photographers and their families for their efforts and assistance.
"The Mirror of Time" brings together the dry plate works of nine iconic early photographers from between 1905 and 1940. These include photographs from the 1930s by photographer Chang Chao-mu (張朝目) that capture the magnificence of the actors and actresses of renowned Taichung troupe Hsin Jin Yun; these images will be publicly exhibited for the first time.
Also on show are photographs of Hakka life in Yangmei and a wealth of precious local images shot over years by Wu Jin-miao (吳金淼), and images shot by Dr. Hong Kong-da (洪孔達), who spared no effort in using dry plate photography to capture the spirit of Taichung, life as a doctor, and images of his family. The negatives of all these precious images were generously donated to the National Center of Photography by the families of the photographers — an appreciated contribution of invaluable pieces of cultural heritage.
On top of these, National Taiwan University's Museum of Anthropology has also provided images from the field work of anthropologist Nobuhito Miyamoto, and the Yushan National Park Management Office has loaned photos of Mt. Yu and Chiayi City by photographer Fang Qing-mian (方慶綿). This exhibition offers the best chance to see these pieces of cultural heritage on show.
Through the lens of Lin Cao (林草), meanwhile, one can witness the family gardens of the Lin family of Wufeng, as well as their servants and elegant guests. The photos of Zhang Qing-yan (張清言) include portraits of his loving wife and rarely seen shots of street scenes and festival processions, while Peng Rui-lin's (彭瑞麟) photography includes the exquisite, classically created lacquer photo "Taroko Girl." Spanning the pre- and post-war periods, Deng Nan-guang's (鄧南光) images of his hometown of Beipu are also a rare glimpse of that part of history.
"The Mirror of Time" runs from June 23 to September 30, 2018, featuring not only these spectacular images of early 20th-century Taiwan, but also a social retrospective on that period and the development of photography in Taiwan during that time.
‘The Mirror of Time’