The annual "Love of the Millennium" photography competition(千禧之愛全球華人攝影比賽) celebrates love and the bright side of life. Chinese photographers from around the world have enthusiastically participated and this year, the pool is larger than ever, with 12,000 submissions from 15 countries.
The competition was jointly organized by Taiwan's Uni-President Enterprises Corp. (統一企業) and the National Museum of History (國立歷史博物館). Ke Hsi-chie (柯錫杰), one of the country's most famous photographers, was convener of the jury.
The works from the 80 winners are currently on show in The 2004 Invitational Joint Exhibition by the Photographers from the Two Sides of the Taiwan Strait, (千禧之愛全球華人攝影比賽暨兩岸攝影邀請展), which includes the works of 13 established photographers from Taiwan and China.
Daily life in small villages in western China seem to be a favorite topic of the participants. Some of the most lingering images of the show are of rural families enjoying themselves amid adverse living conditions -- as people give free rein to their emotions at weddings or the Lunar New Year.
The US$3,000 gold prize fell to Geng Yu-sheng (耿云生), whose black-and-white Family Portrait (全家福) is the most heart-warming image in the exhibition. The photographer met this ordinary farming family of 13 on the mountains in Yunnan and immediately proposed to take their portrait. Geng surrounded the family with their undernourished bulls and the peeling columns of their dilapidated house is the setting of their life, which is clearly not comfortable. That contrasts sharply with the smiles on everyone's face, including the grandfather, who's still turning a Tibetan prayer wheel in his hand.
"It was such a touching scene of the harmonious relations between human beings, animals and nature, that I couldn't help clicking the shutter again and again. I took over 10 pictures of it," Geng said.
Their First Joint Portrait (第一次合影), a silver winner by Chao Chan-ping (趙建平), is one of the few photos in the exhibition that manages to say a lot without much explanation by the photographer. The elderly rural couple had never had a joint portrait, and when Chao was taking their photo, their son and daughter-in-law came to help with the shooting. The brightest part of the photo shows the shooting process of the portrait and it is the smile on the face of the son, who's holding up a pale red cloth for the background of the portrait, that communicates the great joy of the shot.
Although the winners do not all show the same technical level -- and there are some works of trite composition and vague messages -- their observation of real emotions and happiness, even in the unlikeliest places, gives viewers a happy experience.
The invitational part of the exhibition is the place to see the works of Taiwanese and Chinese photographers active in their respective photography circles. Lin Zai-sheng's (林再生) series of Taiwan's mountains and lakes, mostly taken on Taoshan (桃山), present strong images of the magnificence of the misty mountains 2,200m above sea level.
The 2004 Invitational Joint Exhibition by Photographers from the Two Sides of the Taiwan Strait runs through Jan. 25 at the National Museum of History, 49 Nanhai Rd, Taipei (台北市南海路49號).