Shooting Singapore with heart

A boy walking on a ledge at a block of HDB flats in Ang Mo Kio from Bernice Wong's photo series School Of Hard Knocks. (Left above) A shot from Tay Kay Chin's photo series Made In Singapore, which traces the life of Bangladeshi foreign worker Salim J
A boy walking on a ledge at a block of HDB flats in Ang Mo Kio from Bernice Wong's photo series School Of Hard Knocks. PHOTO: BERNICE WONG
A boy walking on a ledge at a block of HDB flats in Ang Mo Kio from Bernice Wong's photo series School Of Hard Knocks. (Left above) A shot from Tay Kay Chin's photo series Made In Singapore, which traces the life of Bangladeshi foreign worker Salim J
(Above) A shot from Tay Kay Chin's photo series Made In Singapore, which traces the life of Bangladeshi foreign worker Salim Javed; a commuter aboard an MRT train in Edwin Koo's photo series Transit.PHOTO: TAY KAY CHIN, EDWIN KOO
A boy walking on a ledge at a block of HDB flats in Ang Mo Kio from Bernice Wong's photo series School Of Hard Knocks. (Left above) A shot from Tay Kay Chin's photo series Made In Singapore, which traces the life of Bangladeshi foreign worker Salim J
A shot from Tay Kay Chin's photo series Made In Singapore, which traces the life of Bangladeshi foreign worker Salim Javed; (above) a commuter aboard an MRT train in Edwin Koo's photo series Transit.PHOTOS: TAY KAY CHIN, EDWIN KOO
A boy walking on a ledge at a block of HDB flats in Ang Mo Kio from Bernice Wong's photo series School Of Hard Knocks. (Left above) A shot from Tay Kay Chin's photo series Made In Singapore, which traces the life of Bangladeshi foreign worker Salim J
(From left) Photographers Bernice Wong and Sim Chi Yin; exhibition designer Edmund Seet; photographers Tay Kay Chin and Darren Soh; exhibition designer Natalie Lee; and project editor Yu-Mei Balasingamchow.PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

A photography exhibition at The Esplanade showcases the diverse talents in Singapore photography

From commuters packed cheek by jowl on MRT trains to hidden industrial estates, the Twentyfifteen exhibition features images both familiar and less known to Singaporeans, taken by 20 Singapore photographers.

The exhibition, helmed by photography collective Platform, opens today at The Esplanade and runs till Jan 3.

It also marks the end of TwentyFifteen.sg, a two-year-long project of the same name, by photographers Tay Kay Chin, Darren Soh, Ernest Goh and Leonard Soh. They are also the founders of Platform.

Launched in August 2013, the project has so far released 18 out of 20 books planned. Each book contains 15 pictures by one photographer. The books were released in the two years leading up to the nation's 50th birthday on Sunday. The project was intended to support and promote the work of both established and emerging Singaporean photographers.

While the team is slightly behind schedule, with the last book out only in November, they were in high spirits during an interview with Life at The Esplanade on Wednesday.

  • VIEW IT/ 
    TWENTYFIFTEEN.SG THE EXHIBITION BY PLATFORM

  • WHERE: Jendela (Visual Arts Space), The Esplanade

    WHEN: Today to Jan 3, 11am to 8.30pm on weekday, 10am to 8.30pm on weekend and public holiday

    ADMISSION: Free

    INFO: Go to www.facebook.com/Twentyfifteen.sg

The founders take pride in the fact that the project was entirely self-funded in a year when many SG50 undertakings have tapped state funds. Money raised from book and print sales was used to fund the production of subsequent books.

And though book sales have been "uneven", with some books selling hundreds of copies while others selling as few as 20, Tay is unperturbed.

"We're not worried as we're not doing this for profit. The purpose of publishing these books is to say that in 2015, these photographers did things differently, and here they are. This is a sampling of their works," says the 50-year-old freelance photographer.

Under TwentyFifteen.sg, he published a book titled Made In Singapore, which traces the life of a Bangladeshi migrant worker here, Salim Javed, who helped build his house.

But he admits that publishing 18 books in 24 months "was like a monthly deadline that never stopped".

Freelance photographer Soh, 39, adds: "It was difficult as we had to juggle our regular jobs with this. But at the same time, we wanted it to be quality work." His book, For My Son, launched the Twentyfifteen series two years ago with images of local architecture.

Ms Tamares Goh, head of visual arts at The Esplanade, which invited TwentyFifteen.sg to stage the exhibition, says: "Given the sentiments this year, we felt it would be appropriate for us to present the exhibition as we could showcase a variety of interpretations of and topics about Singapore."

The exhibition's layout was conceived by designers Edmund Seet, Kai Yeo and Natalie Lee from design firm The Bureau.

Visitors entering the space can read the biographies and browse copies of the books on the left, and view a selection of photos on the right, curated by the designers.

The photographs are printed on photo paper and presented like scrolls.

Mr Seet, 42, says: "We decided to do away with framing the photos. This would open up the space, so people can go close up to the photos and see the textures."

The breadth of works on display at Twentyfifteen is diverse.

There are the tongue-in-cheek works, such as photographer Zinkie Aw's Singaporelang, which explores how Singaporeans express local colloquialisms.

There are also deeply pensive works, such as fine art photographer Chow Chee Yong's Senseless Spaces, which capture lonely, desolate spaces in the crowded urban landscape here.

For her project Roots, awardwinning photographer Sim Chi Yin, 36, traced her ancestry all the way to the rural village of Meixian, in east Guangdong, China, where her paternal grandfather, Shen Huansheng, was buried.

She says: "I went back and found a relative living in the house my great-grandfather built. I also found the very same jetty where many Chinese set sail for South-east Asia. It was a rediscovery of my history."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 07, 2015, with the headline 'Shooting Singapore with heart'. Print Edition | Subscribe