Most people associate traveling cabarets and stage trucks with the terms ‘noisy’, ‘vulgar’ and ‘outdated’.
But Taiwanese photographer Shen Chao-Liang (沈昭良) is here to change that opinion with his STAGE photo series, in which he shot about 100 of the estimated 600 stage trucks in Taiwan between 2006 to 2011.
Stage trucks are employed by Taiwanese cabarets, which are mobile performing troupes that include song and dance ensembles, recreational bands and entertainment companies.
From weddings, funerals to festivities, stage trucks show up at a wide array of occasions with performances from traditional art such as puppet shows, song and dance to sensational numbers such as pole dancing or drag shows.
Although they have been around since the 1970s, the trucks and the entertainment they provide remain crucial in southern Taiwan due to the density of temples and associated religious celebrations held by devout believers to thank the gods, as well as the custom of holding outdoor banquets for festive events.
To document these stage trucks, Shen has traveled wide and far, from the side of the road in Fengshan, a factory in Taichung, a temple in Hsinchu to a seaport in Tungshiau.
But instead of portraying the bustling crowds, Shen turns his focus to the stage truck itself, which he insists on shooting at or after sunset.
Without performers and audience, these glowing stage trucks tell stories of their own, imbuing the scenes with a dreamy and mysterious ambience.
With paintings of Chinese blessings, animated patterns or even western images such as castles or ferries wheels, stage trucks mirror the hopes and expectations of the rural people.
The STAGE series can be viewed with another of Shen’s series “SINGERS”, which documents the cabaret performers up close and personal, illustrating different perspectives of the local entertainment industry.
Shen’s hard work has been featured at exhibitions around the world and rewarded with numerous prizes and including at the International Photography Awards.