Contain yourself at photography festival

Biennial event featuring works of photographers from 23 nations will be housed in purpose-built space made up of containers

Adriana Duque’s Anthology Of An Obsession, a series of images inspired by the works of Dutch artist Vermeer, will be showing at the festival. -- PHOTO: SIPF
Adriana Duque’s Anthology Of An Obsession, a series of images inspired by the works of Dutch artist Vermeer, will be showing at the festival. -- PHOTO: SIPF

For the first time, the biennial Singapore International Photography Festival will be hosted in a purpose-built space.

In the past, it has been held at venues including museums and an art gallery. Containers have been used for this fourth edition as the organisers plan to take the containers to different places in the future and relook aspects of sustainability for art.

The viewing space is made up of 19 containers that will be housed in Prinsep Street. 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 established photographers Tay Kay Chin, Dr Charles Merewether, Dr Adele Tan and Alexander Supartono have selected 47 portfolios featuring works of photographers from 23 countries for this year's festival. It will run from Oct 3 to Nov 30.

Gallerist Gwen Lee, who is also the director of the festival, says it is a good mix of emerging and renowned photographers from all over the world.

Names to look out for include Colombian photographer Adriana Duque, who specialises in digital photography and is a professor in the Fine Arts department of the Universidad de Caldas in Colombia.

Her work, Anthology Of An Obsession, is a series of images inspired by the works of Dutch artist Vermeer. Evoking a period of her childhood, her photographs feature characters inhabiting a black environment. They are shown isolated and alone in a timeless space.

From Singapore, Carrie Lam's evocative Trace Of Time series re-creates journeys that transcend time, space and memory. It attempts to impart new meaning to old photos.

Lam, 28, who graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) degree from Nanyang Technological University, says: "In 1979, my 28-year-old mother embarked on a journey with an Olympus camera. In 2012, my 26-year-old self began a journey that brought me back in time, following in her every footstep through the pictures she took.

"During the journey, I revisited the places that my mother had set foot on 33 years earlier and envisioned how she must have felt in those exact intersections of time and space."

The result is a visual dialogue that Lam says has helped her "understand her past" leading up to "our present".

Equally compelling is China photographer Huang Qingjun's series, Family Stuff, that looks at where the family stands in the midst of immense change and modernisation.

The 43-year-old photographer's work has been published in international media including the BBC, The New York Times, Guardian and Bloomberg.

Festival director Lee, 38, says the organisers and curators were looking for "strong bodies of work" that represent the various voices existing in photography today. The festival, which has grown in scale over the years, aims to showcase talents in South-east Asia and highlight their works to a wider audience along with showing what is happening with photography in other parts of the world.

One of the festival curators, Dr Tan, 36, who works at the National Gallery Singapore, adds: "The best images strive to make a difference, to make a point for us to pause, think and reflect. Critically, they tell us something about the world we are in today and our fraught relationships with it. The best of the submissions to the festival this year have attempted to do this in various ways."

This year, some of the works will travel to different venues in Singapore, including museums.

In the lead up to the festival, an exhibition titled Flux Realities, featuring the works of seven Chinese contemporary photographers, opened at the ArtScience Museum.

With the new exhibition space, organisers will have more room for display.

Says Ms Lee: "With Deck, we are going to have an independent art space launched to support and nurture photography enthusiasts in Singapore, the region and beyond. This purpose-built space allows us to house the biggest festival to date."

The festival is a biennial gathering aimed to advance the art and appreciation of photography. It has established itself as a space to see cutting-edge photography as well as to discover exciting new voices from South-east Asia and beyond.

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