The "betel nut beauties" of Taiwan
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Daylight prostitution in Taipei? Nope. Just some scantily clad Taiwanese girls selling drinks, cigarettes and nuts to passing car drivers. Read more...
Daylight prostitution in Taipei? Nope. Just some scantily clad Taiwanese girls selling drinks, cigarettes and nuts to passing car drivers.
Corsets, cleavages, and skirts shorter than a belt; "betel nut beauties" stop at nothing to get the attention of passing cars. Largely from underprivileged backgrounds, this unusual workforce, sat in their brightly coloured neon-lit stalls, are dressed as such in order to sell nuts, not sex. A prized stimulant in Taiwan, betel nuts are highly popular... and so are the "betel beauties".
The Taiwanese authorities did attempt to get the vendors to soften their look after blaming them for an increase in traffic accidents. But the law, passed in parliament in 2002, fell flat after it was barely enforced. It was not received warmly by the Taiwanese population.
Photos: Tobie Openshaw.
“I’m starting to spot the ones who’ll be happy to be photographed”
Tobie Openshaw, 47, is a South African photographer who's been living in Tapei for ten years.
I'm a regular client of betel nut beauties. I often stop to take a coffee or buy cigarettes. I always chat with the girls, but not too long to bother them.
I'm starting to spot the ones who'll be happy to be photographed. I never insist or pressure them; I just show a real interest in their lives and their work. Of course, many are still reluctant, but those who accept become really involved and introduce me to friends of theirs who'd like to be photographed too. I make a point of being discreet; I just ask them to do their work as normal. I would hate to penalise them by losing them clients. And I always pass by later to show them a few rough prints."
Tobie's video on betel nut culture:
Photos : Tobie Openshaw.