There are more photography-related events in Singapore, but does it signify real growth?

Celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Look out for Carrie Lam’s Trace Of Time (above) at the Singapore International Photography Festival. -- PHOTO: SIPF
Look out for Carrie Lam’s Trace Of Time (above) at the Singapore International Photography Festival. -- PHOTO: SIPF
Sebastiao Salgado. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Sebastiao Salgado. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Lavender Chang’s Eldest Daughter is on show at Icon De Martell Cordon Bleu 2014 at the National Museum of Singapore. -- PHOTO: LAVENDER CHANG
Lavender Chang’s Eldest Daughter is on show at Icon De Martell Cordon Bleu 2014 at the National Museum of Singapore. -- PHOTO: LAVENDER CHANG
Nadav Kander’s Chongqing Xi from his award-winning Yangtze series at Nafa Galleries and Yang Yongliang’s Wintery Forest (above) at ArtScience Museum. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Nadav Kander’s Chongqing Xi from his award-winning Yangtze series at Nafa Galleries and Yang Yongliang’s Wintery Forest (above) at ArtScience Museum. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Nadav Kander’s Chongqing Xi (above) from his award-winning Yangtze series at Nafa Galleries and Yang Yongliang’s Wintery Forest at ArtScience Museum. -- PHOTO: NAFA/NADAV KANDER
Nadav Kander’s Chongqing Xi (above) from his award-winning Yangtze series at Nafa Galleries and Yang Yongliang’s Wintery Forest at ArtScience Museum. -- PHOTO: NAFA/NADAV KANDER

There are more photography- related events but does it signify real growth?

Singaporeans with an interest in photography no longer have to travel halfway around the globe to get an eyeful of the big names of the genre.

Renowned Israel-born, London- based photographer Nadav Kander's compelling portraits and landscapes can be viewed at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts from this weekend, in what is his first solo exhibition in South-east Asia.

This comes hot on the heels of legendary Brazilian environmental photographer Sebastiao Salgado's recently concluded solo show at the National Museum of Singapore, and celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz's ongoing retrospective at the ArtScience Museum.

Interest in photography as a medium has grown, as can be seen in the increased number of museum shows on the subject and the upcoming Singapore International Photography Festival growing in scale. Adding to this vibrant picture is the introduction next month of the first Asian edition of the established Milan Image Art Fair.

Also next month, for the first time, the Singapore Art Museum hosts a triple bill of photography and new media exhibitions, including a group show of works from the Deutsche Bank collection featuring major international photographers such as Japan's Hiroshi Sugimoto, India's Dayanita Singh and Germany's Andreas Gursky.

This development has not escaped art critics such as curator and academic Charles Merewether, who has also noticed a growing number of Singaporeans taking up photography as an art practice.

He says: "Four years ago, I did not see as many Singapore artists opting for photography as an art form. I think a lot of things have come together in the nurturing the value of photography as an art form."

He points in particular to the biennial Singapore International Photography Festival, which has brought together various organisations and museums from here and abroad to raise the profile of the medium.

Dr Merewether is one of the curators of this year's edition, which had a record 1,038 submissions from 64 countries in response to its open call. The four-month-long festival, which opens on Oct 3, has established itself as a space to discover exciting new voices from South-east Asia and beyond.

The growing buzz surrounding art and photography here was what drew the Milan Image Art Fair to set up its first Asian outpost here.

Its director Lorenza Castelli, 40, tells Life! that Singapore was picked to reach out to "a new pool of collectors", and also because it "has created the right environment. There is great interest in photography as can be seen in the increased activity around it".

The three-day fair, to be held at Marina Bay Sands from Oct 24 to 26, will be presenting works priced between $5,000 and $50,000, and hopes to appeal to new collectors as well as those adding to their collections.

Speaking of the current interest in photography, Susie Lingham, director of the Singapore Art Museum, says that "the image has always belonged to the realm of art. Contemporary art, in particular, often encompasses various materials and methods, including photography".

Gallerist Gwen Lee, 38, who runs dedicated photography space 2902 and is director of the Singapore International Photography Festival, says that while interest in photography has been on the rise, "my opinion is that we are surrounded by photographs but our understanding of it is only now beginning to grow".

Some industry insiders, however, think that one should not make too much of the so-called photography boom.

Leading Singapore photographer Tay Kay Chin, one of the curators of the festival, questions if the sheer increase in the number of photography-related events signifies real growth.

Tay, 49, says that while he feels "in general happy about the spike in the number of photography-related activities in Singapore over the past few years", he is concerned that many of the shows feature foreign heavyweights rather than showcase home-grown photographers.

He says: "My main concern is that the balance between local and foreign works remains disproportionately tilted against home-grown image-makers. But I doubt this is a concern shared by many others because most people are just happy that now, we can see a lot of photography shows without travelling far.

"I am happy to see the Salgados, the Kanders and the Leibovitzs in Singapore. But I won't necessarily see that as growth."

Singapore photographer Sherman Ong, who won the inaugural Icon de Martell Cordon Bleu photography award in 2010 - the country's richest photography prize with a cash award of $30,000 - echoes some of Tay's sentiments and hints that the current interest in the medium may not be sustainable.

Says Ong, 43: "We are going through a boom period for photography in Singapore and as with the natural ebb and flow of things, we just have to be well prepared when things are not as heady as they look today. As an artist, I will just continue doing my work amid the boom and bust of interest and speculation."

deepikas@sph.com.sg


EIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY SHOWS TO CATCH

FLUX REALITIES: A SHOWCASE OF CHINESE CONTEMPORARY PHOTOGRAPHY

This exhibition showcases the works of well-established and emerging Chinese photographers. For the first time, the works of seven Chinese contemporary artists - Wang Qing Song, Yang Yongliang, Wei Bi, Zhang Dali, Liu Xiaofang, Maleonn (Ma Liang) and Wang Ningde - are being exhibited together.

The exhibition, comprising over 60 photographs, shows their artistic approach and experience of China's modernisation process. Their works address issues such as globalisation, environmental degradation, population displacement and state propaganda.

Where: ArtScience Museum, Marina Bay Sands

When: Till Nov 2, 10am to 7pm daily (last admission at 6pm)

Admission: Tickets prices vary. Go to www.marinabaysands.com or call 6688-8826

NADAV KANDER: 49 WORKS

Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts will showcase 49 works by Kander in his first South-east Asian solo show. The Israel-born, London-based photographer has shot the entire Barack Obama administration, and this series was the largest collection of images by a single photographer to be published in The New York Times. He won the Prix Pictet (2009) prize for his series, Yangtze, The Long River. His works are presented in five categories: Portraits, God's Country, Chernobyl, Yangtze, The Long River and Dust.

Where: Nafa Galleries 1 & 2, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts Campus 1, 80 Bencoolen Street

When: Saturday to Oct 4, 11am to 7pm. Closed on Monday

Admission: Free

ICON DE MARTELL CORDON BLEU 2014

See the works of the winner as well as the nominees of Singapore's richest photography award, the Icon de Martell Cordon Bleu. In its fifth edition, the award showcases the works of seven photographers - Ang Song Nian, 31, Eugene Soh, 27, Jeannie Ho, 43, Ken Cheong, 45, Lavender Chang, 30, Wilfred Lim, 26, and Neo Xiaobin, 30. Straits Times photojournalist Neo won the award this year. The works are displayed at the National Museum of Singapore. Entries in previous years were shown at galleries.

Where: Stamford Gallery, The National Museum of Singapore.

When: Till Sept 5, 10am to 6pm daily

Admission: Free

Info: www.icon-martellcordonbleu.com

AN OCEAN OF POSSIBILITIES

This is an international open call partnership between the Singapore International Photography Festival and the Noorderlicht International Photo-festival in the Netherlands. Featuring about 250 photos by 30 artists from 20 countries, it will comprise curated individual series on social developments. It will be presented at ArtScience Museum after being shown at the Noorderlicht International Photo-festival in Fries Museum, Leeuwarden.

Where: ArtScience Museum

When: Oct 31 to Dec 28, 10am to 7pm daily (last admission at 6pm)

Admission: Tickets prices vary. Go to www.marinabaysands.com or call 6688-8826

STILL MOVING: A TRIPLE BILL ON THE IMAGE

The Singapore Art Museum will present three exhibitions centred on the nature of the image, as explored through photography and new media. They include one on contemporary South-east Asian photography practices, in partnership with the Singapore International Photography Festival. There will also be an exhibition of works selected from the Deutsche Bank collection featuring milestones in international photography, such as works by Japan’s Hiroshi Sugimoto, India’s Dayanita Singh and Germany’s Andreas Gursky. The third show will present experimental new media works from Japan’s Yokohama Museum of Art collection, including works by Ishida Takashi. Visitors can attend artist talks, critic and curator panels, go inside a mobile darkroom and join educational and public outreach programmes.

Where: Singapore Art Museum, 71 Bras Basah Road

When: Oct 3 to Feb 8, 10 am to 7pm. Open till 9pm on Friday

Admission: Free for Singaporeans and PRs

Info: www.singaporeartmuseum.sg

MILAN IMAGE ART FAIR

The inaugural edition of this major photography and video fair will feature nearly 140 artists, including Edward Burtynsky, Steve McCurry and Sebastiao Salgado. It is held in conjunction with the Singapore International Photography Festival. A highlight is the curated Mekong platform that includes works of artists from Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Where: Marina Bay Sands When: Oct 24 (noon to 8pm), Oct 25 (11am to 8 pm), Oct 26 (10am to 6pm) Admission: $30 (for adults) Info: www.miafair.it/singapore

SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY FESTIVAL

This fourth edition of the biennial event will be housed in a purpose-built space made up of containers. Organisers plan to take them to different places in the future and relook aspects of sustainability for art. Called Deck, the space will feature the works selected from an open call which attracted 1,038 submissions from 64 countries. Curators comprising academics, writers and photographers – including Tay Kay Chin, Dr Charles Merewether, Dr Adele Tan and Alexander Supartono – have selected 47 portfolios featuring the works of photographers from 23 countries for this year’s festival. Look out for works by several emerging as well as established photographers including Singapore’s Carrie Lam and Russia’s Mariya Kozhanova.

Where: Deck, 51 Prinsep Street and different museum venues

When: Oct 3 to Nov 30, noon to 7pm daily

Admission: Festival pass $50, student concession $30 (entitles holder to five screenings, a guided tour, 10 public talks and five seminars)

Info: www.sipf.sg & www.deck.sg

ANNIE LEIBOVITZ A PHOTOGRAPHER’S LIFE 1990-2005

If you have not had a chance to see this, you should make some time for it. Through 200 photographs, this show provides an unparalleled look into celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz’s private life against the backdrop of her public image. At the heart of the exhibition is her personal memoir, documenting a particular time-frame within her life, including the loss of close family members and the birth and childhood of her three daughters.

Where: ArtScience Museum

When: Till Oct 19, 10am to 7pm daily (last admission at 6pm)

Admission: Tickets prices vary. Go to www.marinabaysands.com or call 6688-8826