A gift to remember: French photographer Paul Piollet donates Singapore snapshots taken from the 1970s to 1990s

Children outside a shuttered shop in Gemmill Lane, in the Telok Ayer area, 1977. The many local scenes captured by Mr Paul Piollet (right) include (far right) that of people young and old being enraptured by an opera performance in Chin Nam Street, 1
The many local scenes captured by Mr Paul Piollet include (above) that of people young and old being enraptured by an opera performance in Chin Nam Street, 1971; and boats ferrying charcoal in the Lorong Halus area, 1988.PHOTOS: PAUL PIOLLET COLLECTION, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL HERITAGE BOARD.
Children outside a shuttered shop in Gemmill Lane, in the Telok Ayer area, 1977. The many local scenes captured by Mr Paul Piollet (right) include (far right) that of people young and old being enraptured by an opera performance in Chin Nam Street, 1
The many local scenes captured by Mr Paul Piollet include that of people young and old being enraptured by an opera performance in Chin Nam Street, 1971; and (above) boats ferrying charcoal in the Lorong Halus area, 1988.PHOTOS: PAUL PIOLLET COLLECTION, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL HERITAGE BOARD.
Children outside a shuttered shop in Gemmill Lane, in the Telok Ayer area, 1977. The many local scenes captured by Mr Paul Piollet (right) include (far right) that of people young and old being enraptured by an opera performance in Chin Nam Street, 1
The many local scenes captured by Mr Paul Piollet (above) include that of people young and old being enraptured by an opera performance in Chin Nam Street, 1971; and boats ferrying charcoal in the Lorong Halus area, 1988.PHOTOS: PAUL PIOLLET COLLECTION, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL HERITAGE BOARD.
Children outside a shuttered shop in Gemmill Lane, in the Telok Ayer area, 1977. The many local scenes captured by Mr Paul Piollet (right) include (far right) that of people young and old being enraptured by an opera performance in Chin Nam Street, 1
Children outside a shuttered shop in Gemmill Lane, in the Telok Ayer area, 1977. PHOTOS: PAUL PIOLLET COLLECTION, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL HERITAGE BOARD.

Frenchman donates collection of Singapore snapshots taken from the 1970s to 1990s

Children lining a Chinese opera stage watching dramatic wayang performers; a woman selling dim sum from a roadside stall, boats ferrying charcoal and bakau wood used in construction.

These are just a few of the many images of Singapore in the 1970s to 1990s captured by French photography enthusiast Paul Piollet, 84, when he was based here and in Indonesia. Even after he retired in 1986, after a career in the oil industry, he returned to Singapore about twice a year to take snapshots of the island's street life.

Earlier this month, Mr Piollet, who now lives in Clermont-Ferrand, France, donated 441 colour slides to the National Heritage Board (NHB). He had previously donated a smaller number of images to the National Library and National Archives of Singapore.

Mr Piollet, who is in Singapore to donate the collection, said: "I didn't want these photos to be forgotten. The wisest thing to do is to leave them in the hands of Singaporeans than forgotten in a cupboard in France."

NHB's assistant chief executive of policy and community, Mr Alvin Tan, said Mr Piollet's snapshots of Singapore are quite rare.

He added: "This donation is important because it provides us with a visual record of Singapore during a period when photo-documentation was rare and few had the means to capture such scenes."

  • 441

    Number of colour slides Mr Paul Piollet donated to the National Heritage Board (NHB) this month.

Mr Piollet, who would often walk the streets of Singapore and take photos on his Pentax camera, using Kodachrome 35mm film, said he was drawn by the island's tropical weather, its architecture, culture, music and scents.

"I very much enjoyed the culture and colour of old Singapore," he said.

During his free time, he would hop on buses and travel to the outskirts of the island, to areas such as Choa Chu Kang and Woodlands, which he described as Singapore's countryside. There, he would explore clusters of kampung and capture the area's activities.

His snapshots also document Bugis boats from the Riau settlements, old Chinese kampung temples, provision shops, children at play, as well as old trades including a shop in Victoria Street which made and sold wooden barrels, and another in Chinatown specialising in carvings of religious figurines.

NHB said it will be doing "forensics" on Mr Piollet's images to add descriptors on the content, location and year they were shot.

The board will then explore ways to make them accessible through an exhibition or publication.

It will also look into making the collection available online, said Mr Tan.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2019, with the headline 'A gift to remember: Images of a bygone era'. Print Edition | Subscribe