There’s no doubt that photography is one of the most accessible mediums of our time. It is even more prevalent with the proliferation of smartphone cameras and social media. Going beyond just capturing moments of our everyday life, photography shapes the way we view the world and ourselves. This comes to light in a new Southeast Asia Photography exhibition at the National Gallery Singapore this December.
Living Pictures: Photography in Southeast Asia is a fascinating ground-breaking survey on photography in the region. It spotlights 150 years of photography in the region, tracing the functions and influences of the compelling visual medium.
The exhibition features the evolution and diverse display of some 300 works. It offers a perspective of history presented through colonial archival images, studio portraits and documentary photography to photo albums. It also includes social media photos and modern interventions, both offline and online.
Visitors can look forward to court photos of Thai royalty by one of the first Asian photographers and photographs of the Vietnam War by late Singaporean journalist Terence Khoo. There are also images by former Associated Press photographer Nick Ut, who photographed Napalm Girl (1972), and international acclaimed British photographer, Don McCullin.
Starting with photography’s first arrival in Southeast Asia in the mid-1800s, the exhibition will show how photography had its beginnings as a tool of European exploration before it took on a more local, cosmopolitan perspective through studio photography.
Greatly employed to prompt discussions of social issues, capture historical events, snapshots of daily life and the realities of wars, photography also had a role in the development of visual culture in Southeast Asia.
Setting itself apart from the usual photography exhibitions, Living Pictures showcases its photos in a variety of modes and mediums. This includes an immersive 3D installation work by Vietnamese artist Dinh Q Lê which features over 500 individual photographs. There’s also a retail shop of photo postcards to bring home as a souvenir.
Visitors can also jump into the photobooths and zine-making areas to spark their creative freedom. They can also engage live with four notable photographers from the region – Nguan, Shwe Wutt Hmon, Veejay Villafranca and Agan Harahap – on the Gallery’s Instagram page.
Living Pictures: Photography in Southeast Asia will be housed in National Gallery Singapore’s Singtel Special Exhibition Gallery from 2 December 2022 to 20 August 2023.
(Images: National Gallery Singapore)