Photojazz Five: TC Lin

Photojazz Five (n.) Five questions to and five photos from a street photographer.

While the more mainstream photography in Taiwan generally revolves around an obnoxiously large camera photographing a cliché-posed girlfriend, there are some decent street photographers here and TC Lin is certainly among the cream of them. Wait…can I call it ‘street photography’? Certainly ‘street tog’ isn’t appropriate. And ‘Hipstamatic’ is trademarked.

Read on to find out more about the netizen known as Poagao. Wait…can I say ‘netizen’?

Raised in the US, TC immigrated to Taiwan in the late 1980’s. He has worked as a cameraman for TVBS, a shoe inspector in China, and an editor, not necessarily in that order. He served as an infantryman in the Taiwanese army from 1996 to 1998 and published a book in Chinese describing the experience. He also worked as a production assistant for Edward Yang and Hayashi Kaizo, and directed a feature film that is still in post-production. He plays trumpet and washtub bass for the local jug band the Muddy Basin Ramblers, and his photography has appeared in several magazines such as TIME and The New Yorker.


In one brief statement, define street photography.

“Street photography” is a bit of a misnomer, in that it is really only defined by what it is not…not posed, not set up, not in the studio, not sports or landscape or flower or what have you. To me, “street photography” is simply photography. Everything else is affectation.


How would you define your artistic style (i.e., what defines your visual ‘uniqueness’)?

While I admire the work of Cartier-Bresson as well as Eggleston, and though I would aspire to some unholy combination of their styles, I really think that it’s next to impossible for photographers to enunciate their own styles. Not only impossible, but inadvisable as well, as I feel that such aspirations can only constrain. I don’t go out the door with the thought of photographing this or that; I just shoot what I see, the things I personally notice in the world. I don’t live for photography; rather, my photography comes from my life. I think many photographers, especially since “street photography” has been growing in popularity, get that backwards, and it shows up as a kind of superficiality in their work.


How did you get into street photography?

The first shots I took upon receiving my first camera, a Pentax K1000 I got for my 16th birthday, were of my classmates, the lawn, furniture, the stars, the silverware….whatever caught my eye. I didn’t have a particular genre in mind, but after realizing that most landscape or abstract shots don’t move or change much, and seeing the work of photographers such as Cartier-Bresson, Doisneau and Erwitt, I began to seek out fleeting moments involving people in their contexts, partly for the challenge or the authenticity, and partly to, as Winogrand said, to “see what they look like as photographs.”

bus window

What influences your work (can be anything)?

I like to browse photo books. Bookstores from the huge Eslite megastores to tiny alleyway shops like VVG Something have very nice printed photobooks from all over, an area Taipei has really improved in recently. That said, flickr has led me to some stupendous work. Two of the flickr groups I administer, At War with the Obvious and Hardcore Street Photography, have provided not only glimpses of thoughtful, engaging work, the discussions are frequently though-provoking (and sometimes simply provoking) as well. Through the contacts and relationships I’ve made on flickr, I am also part of a small consortium called Burn My Eye, and the discussions and projects there are often enlightening in a more personal, intimate sense.


Who are your top 5 street togs?

First of all, I hate the term “street togs”; it’s like nails on a blackboard. I admire quite a few photographers, so I’ll just toss out some names: Martin Parr, Alex Soth, Joel Meyerowitz, Lee Friedlander and William Eggleston. I also like Daido Moriyama.

If you are interested in seeing more of TC’s work, and you should be, be sure to check out his Flickr photostream. He is also a very talented writer and shares a lot of his experiences on his blog.

About Brian

Brian Q. Webb is a photography enthusiast from Los Angeles, California who spends most of his time in Taipei, Taiwan. He is especially interested in street photography as well as large format portraiture and pinhole photography. He also likes to shoot lifestyle portraiture and occasionally acts as an agent for foreign newspapers wanting event coverage in Taipei. He was also on the staff of deviantArt and is co-founder of PhotoMalaysia, the largest photography community in that country.