Pictures of a nation

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IN recent years, Canberrans have become accustomed to viewing an annual photographic exhibition staged by the Taipei cultural and economic office, but this time round, with “Retracing Our Steps: A Photo Journey Through 100 Years of the Republic of China”, the show is less about art and more about modern history – a visual lesson marking the emergence of Taiwan.

Photographs from the "Retracing Our Steps" exhibition
Photographs from the "Retracing Our Steps" exhibition

This time, many of the shots come from unnamed government photographers, though some individuals are identified. There are still exquisite images from Taiwanese life – a flock of birds, dancers from the celebrated Cloud Gate Dance Theatre and a huge artificial lily representing the “Wild Lily” student demos in 1990, but these are subservient to the chronicle of national success.
To depict a small nation with an impressive economic record, there are images of technological advancement, low-carbon initiatives and rapid transport vehicles. Natural disasters are not forgotten and one intriguing image shows the upheaval of the earth in the September, 1999, earthquake.
The first part of the exhibition has Kuomintang leader Sun Yat-sen at centre stage, but the photos rapidly proceed through World War II into the post-war era which saw the ROC’s relocation to the island of Taiwan. A triumphal photo of the March, 2000, election captures the democratic aspirations of the nation.
A photographic exhibition is an excellent way of telling a nation’s story, but this show would have been considerably enhanced by a more professional installation.





“Retracing Our Steps,” together with the  Taiwan rare stamps exhibition is at Civic Library, until June 29.

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