In the Spotlight : PAN Hsiao Hisa: unforgetable portraits
In 1980, photographer PAN Hsiao Hsia left for Orchid Island in search of paradise. This voyage marked the beginning of his 40-year record of Orchid Island. The record spans years of Tao culture and ceremonial rites captured in black and white salt paper prints. The Photographic Reportage of Orchid Island shows us Orchid Island through the ages; along with several treasured images of the Tao tribe. Photographer CHANG Chao-Tang describes PAN Hsiao Hsia´s work as, “playful, brave, and intuitive by nature. His camera helps express a unique perspective born from continuous interviews and observation garnered through his candor, authenticity, and sincerity throughout the years.”
In summer of 2019, Inside the Arts followed PAN Hsiao Hsia on a visit to the Ivalino tribe of Orchid Island. The boys he photographed in 1980 are now middle-aged men and one by one the elders have gradually passed away. Even though many customs are disappearing, the enduring concept behind PAN Hsiao Hsia´s photography is his fondness for the beauty of traditional Tao culture. That which has not faded with time remains in the heart of his friends as shown in photographs of his best friend, XIE Fu-cai, wearing traditional dress or author, Syaman Rapongan, enveloped in a sea breeze.
A young PAN Hsiao Hsia longed for the paradise of Orchid Island but was soon faced with the emerging Democracy Movement on Taiwan. PAN covered the self-immolation of Nylon Cheng and Yi-hua Zhan while working as a photojournalist at IDN News. This long-term engagement with political dissidents of the White Terror led PAN Hsiao Hsia to bring these men back to several historical sites. In Taiwan White Terror Human Rights History the photographer used portraiture to create a comparative exploration of their youth. The photo book Testimonies of 228 was a later solo project where PAN single-handedly searched all over Taiwan to interview and take portraits of 228 victims or their relatives. He’s recently completed 100 Years of Taiwan Artists and 100 Years of Taiwan Authors a series of indecently published work that includes photography taken over several years.
PAN Hsiao Hsia´s home has neither a dining table nor a living room and each wall is covered with his photographs. He’s given his life to photography and to Taiwanese history. He often says this is his responsibility as a Taiwanese photographer.