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A photographer's portrait of home: Exhibition transports viewers back to post-1965 Singapore

Veteran Lim Kwong Ling's solo exhibition transports viewers back in time to post-1965 S'pore

For 87-year-old Lim Kwong Ling, photography is about leaving an imprint. As a veteran of the local salon and art photography scene, the camera is his time machine and his images, captured over the years, have the unique ability to transport viewers back in time.

He does exactly that through his solo exhibition, Portrait Of Home, a collection of 70 black-and-white photographs of post-independence Singapore in the then popular pictorialist and modernist styles, shot with a Hasselblad camera.

From children playing at Mata Ikan to an aerial view of boats along a bustling Singapore River in the 1970s, the monochrome images hark back to a past that has been forgotten and aim to spur dialogue about the nation's development.

On show at the Objectifs Centre for Photography and Film till July 28, the works depict different aspects of home through Mr Lim's eyes, from landscapes to bygone industries to intimate family photos. Admission to the exhibition is free.

Mr Lim, whose family business is in advertising materials, began taking pictures more than half a century ago when he enrolled for classes at the then Adult Education Board, established to promote and oversee the provision of vocational classes for adults.

His goal was to learn a new skill to help with the business and also to make images of his young family.

Under the tutelage of photographer Lee Sow Lim, he learnt the techniques and basics of photography that led to a lifelong dedication to perfecting the craft.

He and his classmates started the Photo-Art Association of Singapore, which he served as honorary president. He also held other positions, such as vice-president for The Society of Worldwide Ethnic Chinese Photographers.

Married in 1960, he has five children and is now a grandfather of seven. He credits his late wife, who died of cancer in 2006, for her unwavering support.

"She never opposed my pursuit of photography and took care of the children. I am forever indebted to her," said an emotional Mr Lim.

The show is curated by Mr Ryan Chua, who manages the educational programmes and projects at Objectifs. "When I saw his family pictures, they moved me with how precious they were. During that time, not many people took photographs of the family," said Mr Chua.

As Mr Lim's grandson Maximilian, 21, said: "These dreamy scenes of kinship and childhood, that seem so fleeting, yet are indelibly captured, draw the viewer into his own intimately personal moments, some remembered and others imagined, impossible to ever physically return to."

•For exhibition details, go to www.objectifs.com.sg/portrait-of-home/

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 15, 2019, with the headline 'A photographer's portrait of home'. Print Edition | Subscribe