Chong Kok-yew, a student from Fu Jen Catholic University’s Department of Applied Arts, started to photograph Taiwanese centenarians at the end of last year. A black and white picture of a centenarian sitting alone under a picture of his deceased wife made him stand out among professional photographers. That photograph won the Taiwan Press Photo Contest’s third prize in the portraiture category.
There were 122 contestants in the contest this year, submitting a total of 2,128 photographs. Among the 150 photographs in the portraiture category, Chong’s stood out, grabbing third prize. A passionate photographer, he has won several photography awards abroad, including one at the Px3 (Prix de la Photographie Paris) in France. Twenty of his photographs were also selected for the International Photography Award.
Chong, who comes from Malaysia, won the award with his picture “Centenarian.” The photograph features a 103-year-old man taking his afternoon rest. The picture of his late wife is on the wall behind him, next to a clock. His thoughts for his deceased spouse are his alone to know.
The 23-year-old Chong said he launched his project “Centenarian” to coincide with the nation’s centenary. He started to research the project in September last year, and learned that there were about 1,400 centenarians around the country. At first he didn’t think it would be difficult to find 100 of them, but found it wasn’t that simple. He has only photographed 80 centenarians so far.
The project has meant more than just taking pictures. One particular woman, li-ving in a nursing home, hadn’t been visited by her family for so long that when Chong arrived she would kiss his hand and not let go. Chong could only take pictures with his free hand, but was moved by the woman’s loneliness.
1. stand out
脫穎而出 (tuo1 ying3 er2 chu1)
例: Most of the CD was quite disappointing, but one track really stood out.
2. full of beans
精神飽滿 (jing1 shen2 bao2 man3)
例: He’s full of beans today. It’s always good to see him in a good mood.
睡前酒 (shui4 qian2 jiu3)
例: I can never sleep unless I have had a nightcap.
A centenarian couple, Chiu Kun-chang and Chiu-Peng Chin-mei, left a big impression on him. They had been married for almost eight decades and were still affectionate with each other. Chiu hugged his wife and kissed her lovingly. Chong said that, in order to let him take a good picture, the couple hugged and kissed three times—at the porch, in the li-ving room and on their bed. Chong said the man was full of beans, but his wife very shy and a bit reluctant to do it.
However, all things are tinged with sadness. One of the women passed away because of bronchial failure about a month after Chong photographed her. He burst out crying when he heard the news and went to the funeral, taking a copy of the photo book as a gift.
Chong said that most centenarians do indeed have the characteristics of “big ears and long earlobes.” Many of them advised eating more vegetables and doing some exercise, but some of the men would smoke a pack of cigarettes a day or have a nightcap.
(LIBERTY TIMES, TRANSLATED BY TAIJING WU)