Polish architectural photographer Magda Biernat discovered scattered throughout Taiwan a series of tiny little shipping container stores that sell paan, an arcea nut and betel leaf mixture that delivers a mild high akin to a caffeine fix. They weren't built to be sustainable, and they definitely don't brandish an eco sign. But they do comprise an accidental study in the clever re-use of abandoned materials. Biernat's exhibition, "The Betel Nut Beauties," was recently featured at Clic Gallery. She shared a few of her gorgeous photographs and her story with us.
Magda spent a year traveling through Taiwan with her husband and was quickly captivated by these tiny structures. She describes the shipping containers, small boxes, or cubicles as dwellings that at once provide shelter and act as display cases. What’s on display? The real beauties: the girls.
The betel nut beauties are “used” as a lure to mostly truck drivers who use the paan to stay awake. Transactions take place outside. Asked via a translator whether they felt exploited in any way, most of the girls responded no. In fact, some aspire to purchase their own betel nut shops one day. Not as pretty as some of the converted shipping containers we have featured, these shops nonetheless demonstrate a necessary reuse. There’s nothing trendy about these, except perhaps what the ladies are wearing.