© Constanze Han

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Constanze Han

Brooklyn, New York

Artist Statement

This body of work, The Betel Nut Beauties also known as Bing Lang Xi Shi, began in August 2022 when I returned to Taiwan for the first time in a decade. Feeling confused by the meaning of Taiwanese identity and having an overall sentiment that the culture was being overshadowed by Taiwan's political position, I wanted to draw from my childhood memories as a starting point to explore, understand and document things that felt uniquely Taiwanese.

As a child my family would drive from Taipei city into the countryside where my grandfather lived in the summer. Although I didn't know the roads at the time, retracing the journey is quite easy as there is one main route that takes you from the north to the south. Along the way, I remember seeing young women dressed up in scanty clothing running into the street to interact with cars and trucks that would stop in front of their glass shops marked by signs with flashing lights. They were so fascinating and visually powerful that decades later, their impression stayed vividly in my mind.

When I would ask my parents about the women, and they would dismiss my questioning with "don't worry about them". Eventually as I persisted, they told me that the women were selling betel nuts or bing lang, the fruit of a palm plant that is chewed as a stimulant, most often by long haul truck drivers. I remember being curious if they were sex workers. They are not.

Betel nuts are used in various parts of Asia but the practice of sellers hiring young women to dress up to entice customers became a very visible and common practice specific to Taiwan. Over the years, due to the health concerns associated with betel nuts, environmental concerns with the farming of betel nuts and abusive hiring practices of underage girls, this practice has diminished. The societal stigma against these young women which is most often expressed in a quiet disapproval has remained. To me this is representative of the attitude towards many women’s, LGBTQ+ and class issues in Taiwan, a relatively progressive place which is high in tolerance but also high in judgement. I wanted to understand who the women are and what led them to this very specific line of work.

I was able to spend some time with several "Betel Nut Beauties" of various backgrounds and ages who generously shared their stories with me and allowed me access to photograph them at work.

© Constanze Han

Constanze Han's Portfolio

© Constanze Han

Artist Biography

Constanze Han is a documentary and portrait photographer from New York and Hong Kong.

She focuses on colorful long-term projects that find resilience, beauty and joy in communities that have faced political instability, economic adversity, and violence. Through her intimate and inquisitive way of making photographs, she confronts stigmas related to gender and class.

Constanze studied art history with an emphasis on portrait photography of Africa and the diaspora at Northwestern University. She has received honors from the Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize, Head On Photo Festival, and the Magenta Foundation. Her work has been featured in Elle, Esquire, GQ, The Economist, Rolling Stone, Time and Vice.


© Constanze Han

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