Chi Po-lin once said, “only when you see the beauty and sorrow of this land could you then truly bless her.” Therefore, it has always been our wish to establish an image database of Taiwan to feature the geographical visage of Taiwan, our native land.
To fulfill this wish, a new version of “iTaiwan8 – Taiwan Aerial Photography Database” (referred as “iTaiwan8” below) is officially launched in April—it offers a library of Taiwan aerial photography to be shared with all Taiwanese people. It is a dedicated search engine, which reveals the changes of Taiwan landscape, as well as a gateway to macrocosmically view Taiwan from above.
Since 1990, Chi Po-lin had continuously and aerially recorded Taiwan landscape. Observing the developments and environmental changes taking place on this island, he pressed the shutter to capture innumerous aerial photographs one after another, forming a flow of time which has encapsulated a quarter of a century. This became the origin of an idea: to establish a dedicated image database of Taiwan aerial photography.
After his documentary film – Beyond Beauty – TAIWAN FROM ABOVE (referred as Beyond Beauty below), generated an unprecedented resonance in Taiwan, Chi finally had some energy and resource to launch this enormous project to construct the database. When the database was launched in 2016, Chi named this aerial photography library “iTaiwan8,” to which he clearly and straightforwardly explained its objective: The creation of this library is to call for everyone to “love Taiwan” through the power of image.
When the Chi Po-lin Foundation was founded in 2018, “iTaiwan8” only had a number of more than 8,000 images online. However, when we opened the humidity control cabinets, it became clear that Chi Po-lin has left a wealth of images far greater than the ones already available online. When we reviewed the attribue data of the landscape images in “iTAiwan8” – which include those related to administrative districts, ranging from counties to road sections; natural landscape, such as mountains, rivers, and plains; as well as manmade constructions, like roads, factories, and buildings – we realized that there were many errors to be corrected and supplementary information to be added. Furthermore, “iTaiwan8” was initially constructed in the logic of a website instead of a database. These factors all affected the efficient management of image data.
Regarding these complicated issues, we could only solve one problem at a time. We made a comprehensive inventory of Chi’s photography legacy, numbering and compiling the images, while figuring out the correct number and the level of digitization. At the same time, we re-constructed the columns and format of the attribue data, and streamlined the checking procedures to establish a work model which allowed us to be assisted by volunteers and ensure the accuracy of the data at the same time. Using other Taiwanese and foreign image databases as references, we try to build a better user interface, and produce the use value of “iTaiwan8” in the market. We also visited various corporations to seek funding and technical support.
These are only a fraction of the endeavor, which nonetheless represents our repeated attempts to find different alternatives after hitting a wall and realizing we were stuck.
When the Chi Po-lin Foundation was initially established, we lacked funding, manpower, and knowledge to build a digital archive and an image database. Consequently, we crossed this river by feeling the stones for every step of the way, consulting professionals, while seeking assistance from different fields. At first, several corporations we visited all agreed with the value of “environmental education,” but were not able to understand the reason why the application of Chi Po-lin’s photography would be largely limited if without a “digital archive” serving as a foundation.
After a process of repeatedly seeking suggestions, numerous visits, and thorough explanation, “iTaiwan8” eventually gained everyone’s recognition through our ceaseless effort. Not only did Sysage (now Meta Age) has agreed to offer gratuitously its “Epic Cloud” for the technical support of the new version of “iTaiwan8,” the image database received a subsidiary grant from the Taiwan Creative Content Agency (TAICCA) at the end of 2020, both of which had enabled the Foundation to finally develop the core project of “Digital Archive” step by step.
At the end of 2021, the Foundation has already finalized digitizing nearly three thousand photographic films and completing more than twenty thousand entries of attribue data. Following the launch of the new version of “iTaiwan8 – Taiwan Aerial Photography Database,” the results of the digital archive will be updated more promptly to the library to be shared with all Taiwanese people.
With the customized technical support of “Epic Cloud,” the upgrade of “iTaiwan8” will continue to march toward the goal of being “a search engine of landscape changes in Taiwan.” In addition to being able to upload thousands, or even tens of thousands, image files and archive data unto the database smoothly, the upgraded search system can also more intelligently connect keywords corresponding to every images of landscape to enable accurate searches. Moreover, the search efficacy will continue to be optimized based on popular keywords, which will help us understand the most interested landscape topics for academic studies as references.
Meanwhile, users can also choose to view the images from the angle of “Online Exhibition” or “The Flow of Time.” In “Online Exhibition,” they will find Chi Po-lin’s works featured in thematic exhibitions produced by the Chi Po-lin Museum, including View Above Mountains, Above The Coast, and Reflection of Rivers, and get a chance to appreciate the artistic value and environmental concerns conveyed by these impressive images. “The Flow of Time,” on the other hand, carries on with Chi’s original intention of establishing “iTaiwan8,” and transforms the island’s landscape from 1990 to 2017 into a river of time. The environmental changes of Taiwan in the past quarter of a century are revealed, making words unnecessary. Whether people hope to collect past memories or find historical information, they can all find what they are looking for in “The Flow of Time.”
More importantly, this river of time will not stop at 2017. Subsequently, the Foundation will initiate collaborations with different fields to record consistently and steadfastly the landscape of Taiwan, and preserve historical records of environmental changes to share with the public through “iTaiwan8”—this is our challenge for the next stage as well as a mission we must shoulder.
Chi Po-lin once told us, “many people would say that Taiwan is a small place. To this, I would ask them, ‘but have you seen all of it?’” Comparing to the sky and the earth, human existence is infinitesimal, and human perspective is incomparably limited. The butterfly effect of every one of our choices eludes us, and we cannot see for the fact that humanity is practically on the verge of irrecoverable crises—however, the panoramic perspective of aerial landscape can wake us up, open our horizon, and make us more sensitively aware of our environment.
For this reason, the updated version of “iTaiwan8” is added with the function of “Collection.” We welcome you to join us in the sky whenever you feel like it to tour around Taiwan from above the clouds, and add the Taiwan landscape that touches your heart into “My Favorite” anytime. It is our biggest wish to tell everyone that “iTaiwan8” is an image library built for all Taiwanese people, and we welcome all to use it to their heart’s content.
To teachers and students, “iTaiwan8” is your educational learning database, which allows you to view geographical terrains and texture in a glance, along with the landscape changes that have taken place over the past twenty-five years, and instantly transforms knowledge and theories in books into visual images. To Taiwanese corporations in this era of community informed by “global localization,” “iTaiwan8” offers tremendously powerful aerial images of local Taiwan, which help you to awaken and strengthen consumers’ identification with the value of your brands.
To all Taiwanese people, “iTaiwan8” presents a collection that we are proud of.
This is an image database that preserves Taiwan, an image library that continuously testifies to the environmental changes taking place on this island, as well as an entryway to nurture a macrocosmic horizon for the public—to express your love of Taiwan, begin with knowing the Taiwan landscape on “iTaiwan8” and supporting our cause by supporting the digital archive project.