Chang Chao-tang was born to a doctor’s family in Banqiao, 1943. The summer vacation before he enrolled in senior high school, Chang borrowed an “Aries Camera” from his big brother. This was the first time he learned photography. While he studied at the Taipei Chenggong High School, he joined the Student Photography Club and officially began to explore photography as instructed by Cheng Sang-hsi. Chang was admitted by the Department of Civil Engineering, National Taiwan University in 1961. During college years, he became profoundly interested in contemporary philosophy, literature and art, and read a substantial amount of books on these knowledge fields. He created a human body photography series in Wuzhi Mountain in 1962, which exudes a sense of surreal alienation that continues in his later works.
From the late 1960s to the early 1970s, Chang Chao-tang actively participated in highly experimental art performances and carried out various experimental video and installation art projects of his own. He started working as a photo journalist in 1968 for China Television Company and made documentary photos for it around Taiwan. Chang’s career as a documentary filmmaker reached its peak between the mid 1970s and the 1980s. In 1996, he became a freelance photographer and filmmaker in 1996. In addition to taking photos, he promotes documentary film in Taiwan through teaching and curating. He has been awarded the National Culture and Arts Awards and the Executive Yuan Cultural Award.
While the author questioned the meaning of life throughout his college years (1962-1965), he created Within, Without to reflect upon the concept of “being and nothingness” proposed by French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. He attempts to reveal an quiet, void, and even lost state of mind by shooting fragmentary images and blurry traces of life. This series is a comprehensive display of the nihilist aesthetics of the 1960s influenced by modernism. In this way, Within, Without also opened a new gate for photography of the time in Taiwan.
Photography as a way to document events, deliver massages and express creative ideas can reflect society and politics in the most direct way. Pitifully, censorship in Taiwan lasted until 1987 when martial laws were lifted. Strict controls were cast on media, news, theatre, music, film, photography, publication, and more. Especially in post-WWII years when political situations were tense, people’s freedom of mind and body was much repressed. Only propaganda photography was allowed because it could help the government spread its political ideas. Even salon photography would have to be made according to the government’s art and cultural policies.
Under such circumstances, by extensively studying modern art and cultural trends, Chang Chao-tang developed a photographic language of his own so detached from reality of the time and yet so closely observing people’s minds. His works manifest the existential vacuum and are full of visual expressiveness. He opened a new window of opportunity for photographers in a chilling political era while exerting critical influence on the transformation of contemporary photography in Taiwan. Throughout the last 50 years, Chang has always seen photography as a creative method that goes beyond pure documentation. He retains an absurd, surrealistic visual charm in his real-life photos. It is by keeping a distance that he shows his profound care for mankind.
|English title：||“Within, Without” series|
|Medium / Classification：||Photography|
|Dimensions：||46.7×46 cm ×15 pieces, 55.7×37.4 cm×2 pieces, 37.5×56.2 cm×3 pieces|
|Collection Unit：||Collection of the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts|
|Contact method for authorization：||
Guide to the Use of Image Files and Data from the Online Collection Database
|Related Exhibition：||"The Pioneers" of Taiwanese Artists, 1941-1950|