This major project thing is quite daunting. Not because I’m scared of doing it, but just a bit concerned about choosing the right subject. I plan to be based in Hong Kong during this time & have several ideas of what I could shoot whilst in S.E. Asia. Here’s one of them:
Binlang Girls & Beetle Nut stalls in Taiwan.
A “bin-lang” (betel nut) shop usually consists of a single fully-detached booth, or room, measuring less than 3 meters by 2 meters that is elevated above street level. Large picture windows provide two or more of the walls, allowing those who pass by a complete view of a brightly painted interior and a provocatively dressed young woman preparing betel nuts for sale.
Occasionally, such as in more competitive locations, she can instead be seen dancing, or otherwise, outside her shop in an attempt to attract potential customers.
A shop can additionally be identified from afar by several multicoloured fluorescent tubes or flashing neon lights that frame the windows or that are arranged radially above the shop. Customers stop on the road side and wait for the girls to exchange a pocket-sized bag of betel nuts, ready to be chewed, for cash; others casually slow down their cars to peer in before driving away.
The betel nut trade remains controversial; whilst it is important for the local economy, the betel nut is both highly addictive and a well-established cause of oral cancer, which is disproportionately common in Taiwan.
I’d like to do a photo essay about the betel nut’s journey from the farm, to the booths and also show the effects of it’s use by photographing people who have been or are affected by oral cancer.
I originally started this story in late 2007 before coming over to London for the MA and feel this could be a good opportunity to go below the surface & complete it.