For many teenagers, a trip to the night market might entail snapshots of tasty snacks and smiling selfies.
But for Patti Chen (陳姵璇) and Angel Guo (郭恩加) it provided a chance to document through photography a part of urban life that is normally overlooked. The two 16-year-olds befriended a middle-aged man kneeling on the street, asking for money.
“He wasn’t just a beggar,” Chen said. “He was a person.”
Photo courtesy of Jenny Shi and Wendy Liu
The girls spent 30 minutes talking to the man, who they described as friendly and outgoing. He had a home, he told them, but he was unable to hold down a job.
Perceptions of homeless people as just lazy aren’t true, the girls said. Some have medical issues and others have family difficulties, they found out.
“We hadn’t really noticed this problem before,” Chen said.
Photo courtesy of Patti Chen and Angel Guo
Their interaction with the man and their subsequent photos of him are all part of a student art exhibit entitled Two Tales of Taichung in Photography: City Life and Homelessness.
The students’ photos — and those by their classmates at Stella Matutina Girls’ High School — will be on display at the Lei Gallery in Taichung until April 29.
Aside from raising awareness of social issues, the project aims to get students outside the classroom, give them more confidence and provide a unique piece in their portfolio as they prepare for college.
Photo by John Evans
“Young people are not given enough credit,” Daniel White, the girls’ English teacher, said at the exhibition’s recent opening. “They’re smart and they’re thoughtful.”
The themes of city life and homelessness were chosen by the students, who used their smartphones to explore the city in pairs. Once back in the classroom, students picked which photos to include in the exhibition.
“If they have a reason to speak English, they will,” White said. “I’m just giving them the opportunity.”
For Ellie He (何品潔), approaching people on the street was hard at first, but then her sense of empathy kicked in. Outside a temple, she photographed an older man with a missing leg. Next to the man, who was lying on the street, was an upturned scooter helmet. Inside was a single NT$5 coin.
“We are so lucky for the lives we live,” said He, a sophomore, who hopes to become a blogger in the future.
What resonated most for classmate Jenny Shi (石佾宸) was the feeling of being caught up in a bustling city, full of noise and energy.
To capture that sense of urban chaos, Shi, 16, headed to Taichung Train Station for the evening rush hour. She observed scores of people rushing to and fro. They were walking so fast, Shi noted, just so they could go home and see their families.
“We’re busy most of the time,” Shi said. “But we need to stop and look around.”
What: Two Tales of Taichung in Photography: City Life and Homelessness
Where: Lei Gallery, 37, Lane 50, Jingcheng Rd, Taichung (台中市精誠路50巷37號)
When: Exhibition continues through Thursday, April 29
Details: Admission is free, but gallery hours are by appointment. For more information, contact Jon Renzella at (09) 3053-5282
On the NET: Search Facebook, Two Tales of Taichung in Photography or Lei Gallery
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