Guided by her passion for Taiwan’s local markets, author/photographer Su Ling unveils the unexpected stories, nostalgic sights, and vibrantly human atmosphere of these time-honored hubs of commerce.
Author and photographer Su Ling’s obsession with traditional markets began in university. Once while strolling through a local market, a profound yearning was awakened by the old-timey foods and outdated turns of phrase she encountered. This inspired her to visit markets all across Taiwan, documenting the images, voices, and stories that populate these time-honored hubs of commerce.
Su Ling’s quest to uncover the sources of her nostalgia is a personal one, and her photographs and writing unfailingly reflect her unique perspective. In one market, her eyes might be drawn to the grammatical errors in a hand-written sign; in another, a century-old cutting board still in use at a food stall. Alternatively, she might become entranced by the whimsical life story of a market vendor, or the changing economic fortunes of a market over the course of history.
In Walking the Market, Su Ling highlights the human element in thirty-one markets from across Taiwan. Her pen lovingly details the unique atmosphere of each market and the larger-than-life characters that inhabit them. Take, for example, the “umbrella saint” who shuttles between the markets of Taiwan’s rain-drenched northwest horn performing low-cost umbrella repairs from his van. As captivated as she is by the lives of others, Su Ling’s chronicle ultimately concludes on a personal note. The nostalgia evoked by her journey is traced back to her childhood, where, in the final section of the book, Su Ling shifts through cherished memories of food and family, and lovingly details the comfort foods of home.
In photographs and writing, Su Ling captures the vibrantly human spirit that enlivens Taiwan’s local markets, documenting the everyday lives of vendors, the humorous banter of market-goers, and the frequently astonishing stories overheard along the way. The sights, scents, and sounds of the market spring from the page, immersing readers in a reassuring world ruled by neighborly feeling and nostalgia, where ordinary lives provide extraordinary glimpses into the human heart.