Compared to countries in which trekking and other outdoor sports are well established, Taiwan's high-mountain environment is relatively inaccessible except to those willing to put up with lengthy slogs through often difficult terrain.
One can have nothing but admiration for someone who manages to endure the discomforts of arduous climbing, with the additional weight of a large format camera, and the often frustrating uncertainties of the weather.
One's first thought when looking at Kuo Ying-hao's (郭英豪) photo exhibition -- which is showing today at Jazz Professional Photo and Digital Image Lab (爵士影像), before moving to exhibition spaces in Tainan and Taoyuan -- is of the patience and endurance that must have been required. Wispy mists that manage to veil mountain tops in attractive veils and shooting stars raining through the clear night sky are images that are not going to be found by the trekker in a hurry.
The thought that follows as one's eye sweeps across the saturated colors of the large format prints, is that these images, beautiful as they are, are just a little bit too familiar. The esthetic visions, with their focus on the majestic, overload your senses with crimson sunsets and the craggy peaks of early dawn. But for anyone who has walked the trails portrayed, or has any wish to, Kuo's photos are likely to have you fishing out the primus stove and dusting off your hiking boots.
The Black Chihlai ridge, pictured in semi-darkness, peering through mist, is splendidly evocative of the mountaineer's stories of the lives lost tackling this treacherous section of trail. The lush greenery of the mountain pasture beyond Nenkao Mountain brings to everyone an image that might only be seen by a few lucky hikers.
All a little picture-perfect, a record of the mountains looking their very best for the camera. Each photo comes with notes and a map, indicating that Kuo is as dedicated to climbing as he is to photography.
The photos have been collected in Kuo's most recent publication Walking the 100 Peaks, which is a celebration of the high mountain scenes most beloved of Taiwan's climbers. Their appeal lies in the absolute contrast that they offer to the overcrowding of Taiwan's urban environment and it is a little surprising to see such longing embodied in pictures of mountainscapes that seem to stretch into a limitless distance.
Today is the last day of Kuo's Walking the 100 Peaks in Taipei, after which it moves to the Tainan photographic center in Tainan from Aug. 23 to Sept. 11, and then to the Chungli Art Center from Sept. 20 to Oct. 5.