Slow Photography can be therapy
In over 15 years I never used the pursuit of taking photographs for ‘therapeutic reasons’. But there is a first time for everything.
The photographs I show you in this project are strongly influenced by a difficult emotional state in which I found myself during a recent visit to Taiwan. Let me explain.
This trip coincided with a very difficult self-finding mission. A ‘skin-shedding’ process of some sort. How far these photographs reflect my ‘inner journey’ I can’t say. I leave this up to your judgment.
What I can say with certainty is making those photos has helped me to overcome trauma. On many levels. On one side it distracted me from the constant stream of negative thought and emotions that were occupying my mind most of the time.
The main impact of photographic pursuit as a means of therapy, however, was felt only once I returned from Taiwan and started to edit and sort through the photographs.
Because while I was taking the photos I had the feeling that I was not able to get any ‘keepers’. Probably because I was so in tune with my misery that whatever I did was tainted by ‘negativity’.
I was very surprised that actually among the rather few images I took there were quite a few good ones. What made me even happier was that many of the photographs I took were different from what I normally do.
I essence the photographs brought back some ‘happiness’ and a sense of fulfillment.
And joy and fulfillment are for me, above all, what SLOW PHOTOGRAPHY is about.
Because of the personal significance of this trip, from which I feel I returned as a different person, I will open this series of photographs with a self-portrait that very much reflects my mood upon arriving in Taiwan.
And please stay tuned until the last photo which shows me after the personal metamorphosis I underwent during this one month in the great country of Taiwan.
Taiwan by bicycle
Those following my work as a travel photographer and writer will know that I always try to move around the places I visit on bicycle. And this Taiwan trip was no exception.
The plan was to get a decent used bike in Taipei, and then when leaving Taiwan shipping it back to Indonesia.
The reality was quite different though. Let me tell you the story:
I did not want to waste time searching around for a used bike in Taipei. So I contacted in advance a guy who was recommended to me as the ‘used-bikes-guy’. And told him that I was in search of a city bike. A bike that would allow me to cruise around the cities I planned to visit. Nothing fancy I told said. I also said I would not want to spend to much.
What he showed up with was not what I expected. It was the kinda bike the average housewife would use to run errands. You know the kinda bike that has a basket mounted in the front for the groceries. So at first I was kinda ‘disappointed’.
But it had 18 gears, the breaks worked (almost) flawlessly and it was actually totally o.k. for my purposes. In fact on the day when I got the bike I was so happy to be on a bike again that I cruised around Taipei for over an hour in the evening in pouring rain.
Bicycles on trains in Taiwan
A few weeks before going to Taiwan I learned that it was perfectly o.k. to bring a bicycle on a train in Taiwan. It almost sounded to be to good to be true.
I learned my first lesson when I went to Taipei main station to purchase my ticket for Taichung. I was told that from Taipei main station only the high-speed trains operate and those do not allow bikes.
I was sent off to another train station in Taipei. The station where the ‘normal’ trains leave from. By normal trains I am talking about the ones that stop at each and every station along the way. The ones which are ‘slow’. And slow being an understatement here.
Purchasing the tickets for me and the bike was a breeze. But the first ride from Taipei to Taichung was anything but a breeze. The kinda train I was put on was more like a subway where most people were standing and with few seats.
Totally packed!! So I had to squeeze myself in with all my lugage and the bike. Standing, with one hand holding the bike and with the other hand holding a handle. HELL !! Were I to be in that horrible position for four hours — the time it takes to reach Taichung from Taipei ?
Fortunately after an hour or so the train emptied significantly and I could sit down. I still had to hold on to the bike. But it was OK.
The second trip from Taichung to Kaohsiung was much better. That train had a special car for bikes and / or wheelchairs and was empty from the start. I could fix my bike and sit comfortably all the way.
Taipei — Kaohsiung — Taichung
Those are Taiwan’s 3 largest cities. And having visited them all I think some sort of comparison is in order.
All 3 of those cities are huge metropolises with at least 2.5 Mill inhabitants. So they are large. And there are for sure more similarities than differences…
Taipei, the capital does not really have one distinct center. It rather has a few different areas, all with a distinctive character. I would say Taipei is a sufficiently pleasant city. But not really a city that needs to be on everyone’s bucket list. As a tourist, you can easily explore all the sites that are relevant in 2,3 days. Although to get a sense of the vibe of Taipei you will need more time.
Taichung is different. The overall pace of the city feels the same as in the capital. However, it feels a bit quieter. The museums are great. So are the traditional markets — which happen to feel still pretty much ‘traditional’.
Taichung is not a good place for bicycles though. Hardly any dedicated bicycle lanes. Yet, still manageable.
Don’t come to Taichung if you want to see tourist sites / tourist places. There aren’t any to speak of.
Kaohsiung: Those who have read my other 2 articles (here and here) about Kaohsiung will know that this is my favorite place in Taiwan. And this has not after this trip. In fact my ‘affection’ for Kaohsiung has rather strengthened. All in all I have now already spend almost a month in Kaohsiung and still found new places I have not seen before.
Kaohsiung is the best of all cities in Taiwan for bicycle. It is the greenest of all cities. It has pleasant spots like its old harbor, huge inner-city green areas, nice night markets, even a beach. It has Taiwan’s most beautiful temples, an art center, great cuisine and is overall simply a livable city. And I am sure I will return to Kaohsiung again.
I hope you have enjoyed this essay of photographs from Taiwan. If you want to see more of my photographs from Taiwan then visit:
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DEDICATION: I dedicate these photographs to my wife and partner of over 25 years: Diah.
Diah, thank you I could not have made these or any other photographs in the past without your support, strength and endurance.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
Truly’ – DOMINIK