A Flash of Memory (4th Cyber-Island Photography Contest Winners)

Kinmen People after the Flames of War (Gold Prize)

Photographer: Shu-Mei Xu
Date and place photo was taken: 2009; Fuchien Kinmen

Through fierce battles large and small, people in Kinmen today is truly fortunate to have survived the flames of war and lived for the past 60 years. Modern history tells the importance of Kinmen to the Taiwan Strait and how it became a contested area between Nationalists in Taiwan and Communist in mainland China. Kinmen was a military control zone for many years and is now finally open for tourism. We have to admire the people there for their strong will to survive. When one stands on the shore of Guningtou and recalls the battles sixty years ago, the white sand on the beach stained red from the blood of killed heroes piled high, one cannot help but weep. These days, the shore is dotted with oyster farms.

About ten kilometers away looms China’s Xiamen. In Lung Ying-Tai’s new book Big River, Big Sea – Untold Stories of 1949, she talks about a housewife traveling to Xiamen for grocery shopping and was then stranded there for fifty years. Is this the life the people in Kinmen have to bear? If so, what is the moment in their lives that they remember the most?

The Plaza of Round Stones (Silver Prize)

Photographer: Feng-Qiu Lee
Date and place photo was taken: January 27, 2009; TongLuo Township, Miaoli County
Main characters: Home and Mother

This plaza of round stones, which she has walked on since youth, will soon be paved over with fine sand.
Perhaps we are not young anymore;
With no one to lean on, her unsteady steps no longer match the beauty of round stones.

Mother bent her head down;
It could be that she was just watching her steps,
I think.
But maybe,
It’s possible,
It was a posture of loneliness.
I don’t know…

Immobilized (Bronze Prize)

Photographer: Cang-Bang Chen
Date and place photo was taken: August 7, 2009; Han Sheng E. Rd. and Quyun Rd., Banqiao City
Remark: The road quality has improved a lot in recent years; however, the drainage system is still poor. A summer downpour can cause a flood, resulting in great inconvenience to pedestrians and people driving.

The heavy thunderstorm came suddenly in the afternoon of August 7. Banciao area became waterlogged and traffic became snarled. Granted, time is money in this industrial society and everybody rushes to his or her work. But the drivers and motorcycle riders, in their pursuit to save time, splashed water everywhere. They created a difficult situation for pedestrians, bicyclists, and other motorcycle riders to move around.

I love realism photography and used my camera to capture this rainy street scene. I would like to recommend the government to pay attention to the drainage system on top of the quality of road works when conducting road-paving projects. Of course, the rich people who are enjoying a ride in their luxury sedans ought to feel some empathy for the pedestrians.

Shepherding Sheep on Barren Hills (Selective Preference)

Photographer: Ze-Hao Zeng

Looking for Old-time Flavor (Selective Preference)

Photographer: Jian-Quan Lin
Date and place photo was taken: March 2007; Da-Dao-Cheng in Taipei City
Main character: Old-time flavor from a hand cart

In the bustling city of Taipei, next to Da-Dao-Cheng’s Xia-Hai Chenghuang Temple which was undergoing renovation, I suddenly saw a rare image from my childhood memories. A hand cart sat there; its old owner, rather than giving up his craft, was busy getting ready to open the stall for that day’s business.

I remember the sound of “Hoo-hoo!” going from alleys to alleys and the thick fragrance wavered in the air in the cold winter nights. A bowl of hot flour tea or almond tea immediately warmed up the body. The sweet aroma and hominess lingered forever in one’s memory. Nowadays, in the same cold winter nights, it became rarer and rarer to hear the heart-warming sound. This old owner persists in continuing his business and keeping the traditional flavor so that people with nostalgic memory can still taste their childhood food. Have you ever enjoyed it there?

A Glimpse in the Rain (Selective Preference)

Photographer: Cang-Bang Chen
Date and place photo was taken: August 2003; Ji-an Temple in Shulin City
Main characters: Prayers
Remark: The summer weather is unpredictable; better prepared than sorry. But, the quick wit resulted in an emergency can solve problems too. In this touching image, a grandfather’s love for his grandson is fully revealed. The picture is the best portrayal of family love.

Ji-an Temple in Shulin City is the neighborhood’s spiritual center. The temple worships Baau-Sheng-Da-Dih, the God of Medicine.

August in Taiwan is the season of afternoon showers. The grandfather took his grandson to the temple to pray. It was clear and sunny when they got there. They took their time prayed and played. Unfortunately for them, rainclouds gathered and sky darkened when they were inside. Because of the pouring down rain, they were forced to stay for quite a while.

Maybe they had to leave finally, but without rain gear, the grandfather borrowed some newspaper from the temple staff. Using the piece of paper as cover and holding the child in his arm, the grandfather ran into the rain. Running with such laughter, they seemed to say that they were happier without umbrella in the rainy day.

And I captured the touching scene in that instant.

Passing Travelers (Selective Preference)

Photographer: Cheng-Jing Li
Date and place photo was taken: 2008; Sanzhi UFO House
Main characters: Feet and ruin

Abandoned houses always attract me. There remain many remnants of the past, as if there are still stories to be heard. When it’s time is over, a beautiful new house will age eventually and be replaced; just like passing travelers in an era. And we, we are nothing but a footprint in the house’s life.

Life of Coal (Selective Preference)

Photographer: Shu-Hua Guo
Date and place photo was taken: May 16, 2009; Old kiln in Ma-Yuan Coal Mine, Miaoli City
Main character: De-Sheng Wang

This old man, squatting on the ground and puffing on his cigarette, is old master De-Sheng Wang. The wrinkles on his face tell the story of how, all his life, he has guarded the old charcoal kiln which his ancestors passed down. His face is covered by coal ashes and drops of sweat, revealing the worry he has about the gradual decline of the charcoal industry which once thrived. Many kilns couldn’t sustain their business and were either torn down or abandoned and collapsed. Only this kiln is still in somewhat good shape. Despite the hard work, the old man persists in guarding it for the rest of his life.

Innocence (Selective Preference)

Photographer: Shu-Feng Zhou
Date and place photo was taken: 2007; Nantun District, Taichung City
Main characters: Innocent kids

Taichung City is one of three major metropolitan areas in Taiwan. It is a multifaceted modern city with modern buildings and city-wide transportation network.

Even so, there are some locations in Taichung that maintain atmosphere of traditional culture. For instance, Nantun Old Street still has many traditional buildings and industries. A visit there can yield some pleasant surprises in the urban jungle of Taichung.

During my visit, I saw on the roadside a billboard advertising aged tea. When I was paying attention to the billboard, several children from nearby shops happily climbed up the board to play. The innocent smiles on their faces seemed to welcome me, the visitor, and make me feel at home.

Reunion Dinner (Selective Preference)

Photographer: Bi-Ying Zhu
Date and place photo was taken: September 2007; Nanpu Village, Beipu Township, Hsinchu County
Main characters: Aged bowls and rice bucket

In Taiwan, the most important traditional holiday is the last day of the lunar calendar, the New Year’s Eve. In addition to worshiping ancestors and staying up pass midnight, the reunion dinner is the highlight of the day.

On New Year’s Eve, a large family gathered around a large round table to share a hot New Year’s Eve dinner. Abundant dishes and endless laughter not only solidify the feelings family members have for each other, but also symbolize completeness. The crystal steamed rice filled to the brim of the wooden rice bucket symbolizes an abundant year next year. When eating this dinner, a slow pace is a metaphor of long succession of generations for the family.

With the progress of Taiwan’s modern industrial society and the rise of dual-income families, family dinner time is taken over by work and overtime. Quick and convenient microwave meals in convenience stores as well as French fries and fried chicken in fast food outlets have replaced home-cooking dishes by mothers. New Year’s Eve dinner prepared by restaurant chefs have also quietly replaced mother’s cooking. The wooden rice bucket and bowls, covered in spider web, seem to be whispering some memories of the past.


To view Gold Prize of the 5th Cyber-Island Photography Contest, please go to The Funeral Orchestra.

Text and images are provided by Exhibition of Cyber Island, Taiwan