The day I planked
I first heard about the Pujie Girls and planking while watching a local Taiwanese talk show that featured ongoing fads. Karren and Jinyu were on the show demonstrating to local university students how planking can be both fun and done safely.
I loved the photos and the idea of planking seemed very visually interesting to me; I had to find out more about it. After a bit of research online, I found that there was a whole community of underground plankers who posted their escapades via various social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
I added myself to the fanpage of the Pujie Girls on Facebook and introduced myself. I was hoping that they would contact me soon so that I could secure an interview session with the internet celebrities for Reuters.
The pair are Taiwan’s most well-known plankers, with almost 100,000 fans following them on Facebook. They are so popular that China’s version of Facebook, Weibo, has invited them as VIPs on the tightly controlled social network to promote their activities across the strait.
Calling themselves the Pujie Girls which literally translates to “falling on the street” in Mandarin, the name is also a pun on the Cantonese curse “Puk Gai” which means “may you drop dead.”
Karren contacted me a few days later after the message. I was very excited about the interview and the shoot. Sometimes as photographers there are events where you know you won’t get any good pictures and there are events which get you super excited because you know the pictures are going to be superb. This was the latter!
We had arranged to conduct the interview and shoot at the historic Chiang Kai-shek Memorial in Taiwan. Both girls turned up similarly dressed in their Japanese manga-inspired outfits accessorized with a red school backpack. They were petite and pleasing to the eyes, which would have made for nice photos if only they show their faces in their planking pictures.
Karren, who coincidentally was also a full-time photographer, scouted a few locations and said she was ready. At first, it was a little uncomfortable taking pictures of a girl lying down with her forehead touching the ground but she was very professional the whole time as we went to the various locations.
During the planking session, young people walked up to the pair to ask if they could take photos of them and with them, while older passersby gave them strange looks. Hong Kong tourists shouted “Puk Gai, Puk Gai.”
While planking may have developed a bad reputation from dangerous behavior that killed one man in Australia and left another seriously injured, the Pujie girls chose to use the medium to promote positive causes, such as planking with stray dogs to draw attention to the plight of animals, or planking in famous tourist spots to promote travel.
After the assignment, Karren and Jinyu playful teased me to try it out to find out how difficult it was to plank. So I did!