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The Strangers

On weekends or holidays, the Zhongli train station in Taiwan is always filled with migrant workers. The voices and odors in the station almost trick someone into thinking they’re in another train station in some Southeastern Asian country.

The total population of migrant workers in Taiwan has exceeded that of Taiwanese aborigines. They migrate for better economic or living conditions, a not-so-uncommon phenomenon that can be found throughout history. Today the world sees a surging wave of war refugees, from Afghanistan, Somalia, to Libya, from

Myanmar’s Rohingya people to five million refugees of Syria. If we think about the millions of Mainlander troops and civilians who retreated to Taiwan after the Kuomintang lost the 1949 Chinese Civil War, these immigrants, my father included, are regarded as “displaced persons” under the category of sociology. And my father would be considered a refugee during the Chinese Civi l War, a stranger away from home.

For The Strangers, I use a high-speed camera and a high-lumen spotlight to shoot from the passenger car through the window. As the train approaches the platform, I turn on the spotlight, and the high-speed camera begins filming the passengers waiting on the platform at a speed of 1,200 frames per second. The eight seconds of filming become eight minutes when played at a normal speed. As the camera captures each foreign face in high speed, these strangers turn into sculptures, frozen in time, on a platform that morphs into a spotlighted stage where one by one they appear to be in a somber portrait that looks us in the face.