Photo exhibitions, concert aim to provoke thoughts on death penalty

Photo exhibitions, concert aim to provoke thoughts on death penalty


Taipei, April 2 (CNA) A Japanese photographer and harpists from France and Taiwan are encouraging Taiwanese people to reconsider their thoughts on issues related to the death penalty through photo exhibitions and a concert in Taiwan, organizers said Monday.

The arts events kicked off in Taipei Monday with a two-day display of 16 photos taken by U.S.-based photographer Toshi Kazama, featuring pictures of death-row inmates in the United States and Taiwan, execution sites, execution devices like the electric chair and a prisoner's last meal.

This collaboration marks the first time that the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty has organized events incorporating music and photos to raise public awareness on the issue, said Lin Hsin-yi, executive director of the Taipei-based alliance.

Holding the events in April is significant because Taiwan has executed inmates in the spring of the previous two years, Lin added.

Taiwan ended a four-year-long moratorium on executions in 2010, executing four prisoners that year and another five in March of 2011, drawing criticism from the European Union and human rights advocates.

Speaking at a news conference, Kazama said he wanted to encourage the Taiwanese public to think deeply about more aspects of the practice of capital punishment.

Most people just focus on whether it is "right or wrong" to impose the death penalty, said the 54-year-old, who began taking photos of death-row inmates and execution sites in 1996.

"But they don't know the reality (surrounding the death penalty)," Kazama told CNA, adding that the emotional impact on execution officials is often ignored.

Through consideration of the black-and-white photos, Kazama said he hoped visitors to the exhibition could "see beyond just image."

French harpist Isabelle Perrin and her Taiwanese counterpart Shannon Chieh were scheduled to perform at the National Theater Concert Hall in Taipei Monday evening, organizers said.

The concert, which is expected to draw an audience of 2,000, will be given against the backdrop of Kazama's photos.

In a video shown at the news conference, Chieh said she hoped the performance with Perrin -- who comes from a country where the death penalty has been abolished -- will offer people an opportunity to approach the issue in a "soft way."

Echoing Chieh's remarks was Fleur Willson, head of the British Trade and Cultural Office's Political and Economic Section, who was present at the news conference.

The form of an arts performance is an easier way to get the message across to average people, she said.

Kazama's photos will also go on display in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan, April 5-11.

(By Elaine Hou)