There is a lot of information in Franky Verdickt’s photographs of quiet urban scenes in contemporary Taiwan. These atypical street photos are distinguished by their controlled (cool) color and bright night-time lighting. They artfully blend a hyperreal sharpness of focus with the blur of speed. And, finally, the isolation of the humans in these scenes makes them seem small and insignificant amidst the soaring scale of the surrounding architecture and infrastructure.

The way these pictures are made, Taiwan feels both normal and like a sci-fi, alien place — a cold, impersonal and hostile environment where individual humans seem rather unimportant. It is telling, then, that the artist’s statement (see full text below) is rather political, too, finding metaphorical meaning in the feeling of isolation one can experience on the streets of Taiwan, compared with the political limbo that the state of Taiwan finds itself in relation to mainland China and the rest of the world.

—Jim Casper

The Representative Office 9. © Franky Verdickt. Juror’s Pick, LensCulture Street Photography Awards 2018.

Artist’s Statement:

In 1978, the US formally cut ties with the Republic of China on Taiwan, instead establishing relations with the People’s Republic of China (the People’s Republic of China is Taiwan’s official name). On December 2, 2016, President-elect Donald Trump and the President of Taiwan had a direct telephone conversation. This event marked the first time since 1979 that a U.S. President or President-elect directly spoke with a President of Taiwan. The People’s Republic of China was not amused.

On July 8, 2017, President Trump made another diplomatic blunder by calling president Xi the “President of the Republic of China,” the official name of Taiwan. Officials from the People’s Republic of China laughed the gaffe away.

The Representative Office 10. © Franky Verdickt. Juror’s Pick, LensCulture Street Photography Awards 2018.

Under continuing pressure from China to bar any representation of Taiwan that might imply statehood, international organizations have adopted different policies regarding the issue of Taiwan’s participation. In cases where almost all UN members or sovereign states participate, such as the World Health Organization, Taiwan has been completely shut out. In others, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and International Olympic Committee (IOC), Taiwan participates under unusual names like “Chinese Taipei” or “Taipei Representative Office.”

This photographic series is a metaphor for the de facto diplomatic solitude of the state of Taiwan.

—Franky Verdickt