“There’s an old-fashioned way of thinking that’s still very prevalent in Taiwan,” photographer Andy Richter says. “But it was obvious by the way I saw young people dressing that they were starting to question the conformity preached to them.”
Richter, based in Minneapolis, stayed with a local couple while he was in Taipei, and he talked with his hosts about what he was seeing on the streets and in cafés. “They explained to me that parents in Taiwan are very strict,” Richter says, “and very hard-working. Their kids are under a lot of pressure. These young people start with tutors at three or four years old, and the idea is to memorize and memorize and memorize and do as well as possible until you have a good job at the end and you’re happy.” Richter started to see the outfits and hair as the teens’ way of wrestling with the pressure, and expressing who they are as individuals.
With no translator (most of the time) and no knowledge of Mandarin, Richter interacted through his camera lens. “When I was taking their portraits, they were free. I got to see them how they wanted to be seen,” he says. “In fact, many of them were posing or performing for me, even though they didn’t know what I was doing there. We didn’t understand each other, but we made sense of each other through the camera. And I understood them in the best way I know how: visually.”
Click through the slideshow to see more photos from Richter's time in Taipei.
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