A Different Picture

In 2014, I was asked by Deepika Shetty, ST Life! Arts Correspondent, to “comment on the many exhibitions, festivals and even a fair dedicated to photography” in Singapore.

This was what I wrote, and part of it appeared in the paper today:

“I feel in general happy about the spike in the number of photography-related activities in Singapore over the past few years, but I think the growth also needs to be viewed from other perspectives.

My main concern is that the balance between local and foreign works remains disproportionately tilted against home-grown image-makers. But I doubt that is a concern shared by many others, because most people are just happy that now, we can see a lot of photography shows without traveling far.

Singapore is becoming, more and more, a great place to look at international photography works, but is Singapore becoming a good place to view Singapore works? I doubt so.

I do not know whose job is it to grow the Singapore voice, but I do see that as one of my life goals, and together with some good friends, we have tried to do our parts through Platform and TwentyFifteen.sg.

We have some supporters who believe in our cause, but we are generally facing a uphill task in persuading the wider audience, as well as those in position of power to listen more closely.

In some ways, the apparent growth in photography here is making it harder for us to get support. A lot of potential collaborators and sponsors are probably feeling the fatigue and it becomes easier for people to use “But there are already a lot of photography exhibitions here” as an excuse to disengage.

I am happy to see the Salgados, the Kanders, the Leibovitzs, the Parrs, in Singapore. But I won’t necessarily see that as growth.

In fact, I hope people will stop hyping up the local scene, because the real picture is not what it appears to be.

Do many of the international stars who exhibit in Singapore care if there will be more Singaporeans hitting the world stage? Probably not. In my opinion, many just see Singapore as a good place to make more money.

How hard is it to mount an international blockbuster here? Give me a couple of million dollars and I can bring the whole galaxy of rock stars to Singapore. But is that growth?

It is the same in architecture and many other creative fields.

That is sad right?

But I won’t just complain because it won’t get me anywhere.

I will stick to doing what I can.”