PLATFORM was formed by a group of Singapore-based photographers in 2011 with the mission of advocating and sharing social documentary. They seek to tell visual stories to a wider local audience concerning the Singaporean community through photography.
The group launched the initiative Twentyfifteen to publish a total of 20 books profiling photographers in Singapore as a project to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Singapore in August 2015. Eight out of these 20 books have already been published. In an effort to be more inclusive, the group launched an additional program called +50, a complementary initiative to profile 50 more photographers through open pitches held at various locations around Singapore.
These are the books already accomplished to date:
Book 1: For My Son by Darren Soh
Darren Soh uses his lenses to capture places and buildings in Singapore that have disappeared from the landscape or are likely to disappear over time. He visually preserves them in an attempt to relive the memories he has of them for his son. In a letter to his son he writes “…Perhaps my memories and this book will be all that I have for you from these places.”
Book 2: Our Coastline by Lim Weixiang
Lim portrays the coastline of Singapore in a very poetic way by juxtaposing his interpretation of it. He understands it to be a boundary that is limiting and constricting. However, he emphasises looking beyond the coastline as a symbol of hope, an imagery of inspiration, aspirations and endless possibilities that are limitless.
Book 3: Bay of Dreams by Kevin WY Lee
Bay of Dreams is a collection of photographs taken at the Marina Bay area of Singapore.
Book 4: Two People by Sean Lee
“What God has joined together, let no man put asunder” is a verse from the Bible that encapsulates the essence of the series of pictures taken by Lee. He successfully formulates deeply reflective and realistic photographs that hover on the subject of family. The process has resulted in the creation of intimate encounters for viewers as they are invited to ponder on their own family life.
Book 5: Made in Singapore by Tay Kay Chin
The protagonist in Made in Singapore is Salim Javed, who is from Bangladesh and has worked in Singapore since 1996. He works as a construction foreman in Singapore, his wife lives with the family in Bangladesh. Tay Kay Chin explains: “While I used the title Made in Singapore to refer to the baby girl his wife Jorna conceived when visiting Salim in Singapore, I realised along the way that he came here to make life better for himself and his family, and it is no exaggeration to say that many of these dreams were ‘made’ in Singapore. The money he earned here as a construction foreman is much higher than what he could have made back in his village, and it has certainly benefited his loved ones. Salim is a representative of the thousands of migrant workers who work here, and I certainly believe that they are part and parcel of the Singapore narrative.”
Book 6: Singapore 1925 – 2025 by Robert Zhao Renhui
In this book, photographs of Singapore taken over a century were selected to chronicle the changing landscape of the small island. The pictures capture an ongoing dialogue between the city’s man-made infrastructure and its natural spaces and creatures. The Land Archive has contributed significantly to this publication through their documentation efforts in recording the evolution of the tropical-island state. Such initiatives provide useful historical and ecological material in the long run.
Book 7: A Little Bit of Me from Everything Else by Matthew Teo
“Gaffer tape, mannequins, trolleys, huge bags of equipment and lightstands are part and parcel of my life as a camera assistant. Including them in this series is my attempt at formalising my work, as well as coming to terms with my career as a commercial/fashion photographer while juggling my own expectations as an artist and the influences I have had since my teenage years. I hope to challenge the boundaries we continually reconstruct between the self and others, as well as question what is socially acceptable to share with other people. This is particularly relevant in a modern world permeated by social media, where everyone is trying to share a piece of life and grab attention. I also use self-portraiture to express widespread social sentiments as well as my personal ones towards national policies and governance in Singapore.” says Matthew Teo about his work.
Book 8: ARTiculate by Tan Ngiap Heng
Through the series of photographs in this book, Tan pays tribute to Singaporean artists who have enriched our lives. This is Tan’s second attempt at doing a series of portraits of people in the arts and his subjects include visual artists, writers, dancers, theatre practitioners, musicians, photographers and animators. His technique of using projection and layering of images not only creates an aura of nostalgia, but very gracefully honours the ambassadors of the arts in Singapore.
As the great Henri Cartier-Bresson said: “Of all the means of expression, photography is the only one that fixes forever the precise and transitory instant. We photographers deal in things that are continually vanishing, and when they have vanished, there is no contrivance on earth that can make them come back again. We cannot develop and print a memory.” In light of this, let us begin to show more appreciation for the photographers in Singapore by supporting their efforts and works.
By Tessa Ann Wong