What are these strange objects doing there, in the middle of the countryside?
This series of images originated in a chance encounter I made with an abandoned bunch of futuristic bungalows in northern Taiwan. The wide-shot picture depicts one of the first impressions I had of the place: in the distance, a group of brightly-coloured bulbs still covered with a film of water that glittered under the yellowish light after the rain… A surreal vision, in a country where I myself had just landed. Neighbours of this strange architectural complex were much amused by my interest in the place – for more than twenty years, they had lived next to this massive modern ruin, initially built as a hotel complex, part holiday resort, part amusement park, and never opened.
This series of images was created over a period of two years, and is the result of several trips there. Where did your successive shoots lead you?
I started by working on the building exteriors with “establishing shots” - images that set the stage and create a general context; next, I focused on the forms themselves, and finally on the interiors. Each time I returned for a shoot, I discovered new things. Taiwan’s tropical climate means that life there is always very palpable, and perhaps even more so in this derelict location. Between visits, everything seemed to have changed: the vegetation could be all yellow at a given time, and then all green a few days later; insects, and even objects, seemed to appear and disappear, like bits of the statues of monkeys that adorned the roofs and the pool slide… As if the place was haunted by ghostly presences. Which was actually not far from the truth: in some of the bungalows, I discovered mattresses, old clothes and newspapers and even a room fully furnished like an apartment, except that the “apartments” have no water or power supply, or even glass in the windows. And then six months later, the dresser, bed, papers… all of it was gone. Another time, while my head was tucked under the view camera’s black sheet, I heard footsteps and whispers… when I popped my head out, all I saw was bushes moving: it was kids in camouflage outfits using the place as a battlefield to fire plastic bullets at each other… However much I went around the site again and again, I never knew what I was going to discover!
What do you find so fascinating about these modern ruins?
I guess what drew me here initially was the architecture, reminiscent of the utopian constructions of the 60s - I myself grew up in a house full of cells and bulbs. These bungalows were built along the same architectural lines, although the entrance here is a large gate decorated with a massive dragon, and it seems there were statues of animals all over the place. A pretty “fusion” village, in a way!
I also thought it was fascinating to find ruins in a leading high-tech country like Taiwan, where most of the stuff we consume in the West is made (or at least used to be). The contrast is not only noticeable nationwide, but also on this particular site. The bungalows are located between an area of modern high-rise housing and a beach where old Taiwanese peasant women dressed in extraordinary costume fish crabs from the rocks just below the UFO-like structures.
There’s a kind of poetry in this place that strikes you in a very direct way: it becomes a place of sensations, colours, sounds, and texture that you’re entirely free to explore.Whether in portrait or architecture, you mostly work with a large-size view camera: what is it you like about this format?
I enjoy working on portraits and architecture with a view camera: it offers great image quality, resolution, proper perspective… and most importantly, the slow pace and long preparation time it requires, with the distance it creates in relation to the subject, something that is reflected in the care and precision put into the composition. There’s a kind of solemnity in the process and result that I like a lot.
Limited edition, numbered and signed.