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Manbo Key

The Taipei-based art director and photographer who accidentally ventured into the medium chats to us about his inspirations

Manbo Key was brought up by his grandmother in a little village and soon started to dig into his origins. After graduating from university, Manbo had no job and nothing better to do than wander around his flat, go to flea markets and rummage through all the things at his disposal. There he discovered a faulty 35mm Yashica camera. His works are a mix of many stories and layers like paintings where the vivid colours convey his ties to Taiwanese culture.

"The camera would automatically overexpose all my photos, probably because of the wear [and tear] or maybe some little chink around the camera back, but the fact is I couldn’t help falling in love with her."

Dazed Digital: What was your favourite toy as a child?
Manbo Key:
That’s a funny one! Well, maybe it’s that filthy and worn stuffy toy rabbit!

DD: Can you explain your creative process?
Manbo Key:
I believe photography sometimes bears a strong relation to painting. You also have to first think about the colour, the elements and the composition. Sometimes I incidentally find myself in some situations that trigger my creativity and I start shooting. The funny thing is I don’t consider these situations as something merely incidental, but as a real corroboration of those stories and metaphors that I once made up in my imagination.

DD: Are there still any rabbits in your life?
Manbo Key:
Yes, the one starring in some of my works is my flatmate’s rabbit and he has already been with us for six years, since we were at university. His daily routine consists of wandering around and constantly biting my cardboard boxes!

DD: Can you remember when you took your first ever photograph?
Manbo Key:
Yes, the first time I used that old Yashica that I found at a flea market. That very day we had a blazing sun and the heat was stifling. I was laying on the bed, facing the window. I had a very Taiwanese blanket covering my bed, red with some creamy-white flowers. Then I started imagining some stories and spent the whole afternoon shooting. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting anything from those shots, I just wanted to see if that camera could still be used. I could sense the mist that camera provided to those moments of solitude.

DD: What are you currently working on?
Manbo Key:
Currently I’m a freelancer. Recently I’ve been working with the theatrical group the Shakespeare’s Wild Sisters Group, shooting their promotional materials. Now I’m working on my next project, which is a documentary-inspired short film about my grandmother that I’ll be shooting next month in Japan.

Text by Alexandra Plesner