Photography came to Taiwan in the 19th century. As early as 1869, American St. Julian H. Edwards had begun to document a range of Taiwanese landscapes. During this period, in the final decades of imperial Chinese rule over Taiwan, it was outsiders like Edwards who took pictures of the island. They came with heavy carts of equipment and early techniques, including one process that required the use of egg whites. In the early 20th century, though, Taiwanese people, too, began to take up cameras and turn their lenses to the Taiwan they saw. Their medium of choice was dry glass plate photography.
An ongoing exhibit at the National Taiwan Museum called “The Mirror of Time” takes at look at work by nine of these early photographers. All were active in Taiwan during the early 20th century, and all left their mark with the same dry glass plate process. All but one were Taiwanese. The works span from 1905-1949 and are paired in the exhibit with some of the photographers’ personal belongings and equipment. Over the next two weeks, we’ll hear from exhibit's curator Chang Tsang-Sang about the photos in the exhibit, the lives of the people who took them, and the struggle to protect photos like these from both war and climate.