Spectral Codex is managed by Alexander Synaptic, a photojournalist, web developer, and blogger based in Taipei 台北, Taiwan. This site began as a general purpose blog but evolved into something more like a personal Atlas Obscura, with special emphasis on historical sites, abandoned places, and cultural practices in East and Southeast Asia. Nowadays my mission is to share photos and words that do justice to the places I visit. Don’t expect standard travel blog fare; this is a quasi-academic collection of field notes in which I do my best to go a little deeper, actually learn something about the world, and share it with anyone whose curiosity might be piqued.
This blog began as an attempt to break out of the sanitized monotony of mainstream social networks and create something of my own on the web. Now that I’ve been at it a few years I would describe it as an experiential journal of synchronicity and connection. What I share here is an expression of my endless curiosity and adventurous spirit, a living record of what I’m learning about the world. Nothing published here is fixed in time and space; these words and images evolve and change.
As a creature of new media I am interested in blogging as an end unto itself. I have no professional aspirations in media nor do I intend to monetize my work through advertisements or sponsored posts. This is primarily a creative outlet for me and I intend to keep it that way. If you’re accustomed to for-profit media intended to elicit an immediate reaction I recommend adjusting your expectations; much of what I publish is obscure (although not purposefully so) and subverts established norms. That said, critical and informed engagement is appreciated.
If you’re new around here I suggest browsing the highlights or sampling any of these articles and photo essays:
- Suhua Highway Road Trip 2018: a long-form post documenting the beautiful scenery and historical sights of Taiwan’s most dangerous coastal road.
- South Taiwan Ride 2015: a complete 20,000 word write-up of a bicycle journey around southern Taiwan.
- The Chinese Temples and Guildhalls of Cholon: an experiment in documenting the diversity of the Chinese diaspora in Vietnam’s largest city.
- Changhua Roundhouse: all about one of Taiwan’s great unsung cultural treasures.
- Crossing the Central Mountain Range of Taiwan: a road trip over the highest mountain pass in the nation—on a small scooter.
- Hengwen Temple: one of my more in-depth articles about Taiwanese temple culture.
I am endlessly fascinated by the secret lives of inanimate objects, the eerie solemnity of abandoned places, the desolate beauty of manufactured landscapes, and the wonders of remote and otherworldly locales. I am drawn to the visual rhythm of grit, grime, and decay and inspired by the majestic works of nature. I am especially interested in the juxtaposition and intersection of organic and artificial forms, particularly those realms where nature is busily reclaiming manmade structures and objects. Most of all I am intent on exposing the hidden stories and forgotten fables all around us, no matter how inconsequential.
Most of my work is more documentarian than fine art, though I enjoy dabbling in conceptual and abstract domains now and then. In recent years I have become much more direct, methodical, and unpretentious in my approach to photography. In an age of perpetual and ubiquitous image production I derive some amount of satisfaction from paying attention to what is ordinarily beneath notice. But perhaps this overstates how seriously I approach photography. Almost everyone can freeze time these days, making me one of countless multitudes recording and sharing my experiences and discoveries. In recognition of this, I’ve been investing more energy into the narratives that surround my photographic work.
My blog is highly visual so you’ll find my photography scattered all around—but if you’d like to see some of my better work in more concentrated form check out my postcards from Kowloon, Hanoi, Xiluo, Nanfang’ao, Wenshan District, and Badouzi.
I welcome contact from friends, family, and strangers alike. If there’s anything you’d like to discuss please feel free to contact me and I’ll do my best to respond.