“I respect all the invisible powers and gods; I treat nature and people with sincerity.”

b.1981, Tainan, Taiwan

Chen Yu-Lin is the brother of Chen Yu-Ting. Brought up in a religious family near a temple, he has always been a devotee of Taiwan’s folk religion (a mix of Buddhism, Daoism, mythology and shamanism). His photographs—taken with an ordinary digital camera, then converted to black and white—explore “the emotional connection among believers, and between them and the gods”. Faith keeps people from becoming arrogant and isolated, Chen Yu-Lin says. It shows us how to live with nature and with each other. Taiwan has hundreds of gods, many of which are honoured with their own annual festival or pilgrimage. These ceremonies bring families, relatives, friends and strangers together in faith and love, and connect them to the old Taiwan—the simple, sincere Taiwan of the artist’s childhood. He has made it his mission to record them before they lose their sacred character and become mere tourist shows. Approaching each ceremony as a full participant, he wades into the crowd with his camera in front of him. These events have a momentum of their own—once they start, there is no time to stop and carefully frame a photograph. So he leaves composition to the gods. “By now I know what I am looking for. I don’t need the viewfinder,” he says. Still, “I often feel very grateful. It’s as if the god is blessing me—as if he arranged it all.”

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