Time Out Singapore: ‘Breakfast at 8, Jungle at 9’

8 Jun 2015: Photographer Ernest Goh is about to take over Objectifs with a whole lotta dead creepy-crawlies


A couple of years ago, Ernest Goh came across a 1992 study that concluded people tend to better appreciate a present if it’s been gift-wrapped. As he mulled over the concept of packaging, it occurred to him that the myriad of flora and fauna we are surrounded by is, likewise, a kind of wrapping paper that helps to make our rocky planet more beautiful.

Once he struck upon that idea, he knew he had to explore it in more detail. And so, at the end of 2014, he published The Gift Book. It features 15 sheets of glossy wrapping paper, but instead of the generic patterns of polka dots or stripes, they are printed with specimens of creepy-crawlies and flowers found around Goh’s home, arranged in a tile-like pattern.

‘I wanted to expose people to these animals that will normally make them go “ew!”, and show them that they are actually very beautiful,’ he explains. ‘Hopefully, after seeing these photos, they won’t want to kill them anymore.’

Goh’s fascination with creatures goes back a long way, when he and his brother spent their childhood running around his grandmother’s kampong, catching fish and fighting spiders. When he partnered Panasonic on a project in the mid-noughties, he used his father’s collection of goldfish as the subject matter – and immediately fell in love with the art of capturing living creatures. He moved on from shooting fish to shooting snakes, orangutans, chickens and beetles. But now, he’s interested in dead animals.

It began two years ago, when he heard that the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum would be opening. He approached the team, and was invited to create a 12m-long mural in the museum’s lobby. He spent four days taking photos of a whole bunch of mounted animals – all while the place was being built.

‘Shooting living animals is difficult because you want to capture their sense of life, but when you’re shooting dead animals, the challenge is to inject a sense of life into them by focusing on their colours, textures and other details,’ he explains. ‘People have a preconceived idea when they go to a natural history museum that it’s filled with these old, dusty stuffed animals. Since that is what they’re going to be seeing, I didn’t want my mural to reinforce that idea. Instead, I want to present them in a different way.’

And so he decided to revisit the geometric patterns he used in The Gift Book. The resulting work, titled ‘Breakfast at 8, Jungle at 9’, is a kaleidoscopic map of concentric circles showcasing the museum’s collection. This month, 16 prints from both The Gift Book and ‘Breakfast at 8, Jungle at 9’ are displayed at Objectifs’ new gallery space. But rather than just exhibiting the prints, Goh’s not done toying with the idea of gift-wrapping yet.

When we met, he’d just gotten off the phone with his supplier. ‘Supplier for what?’ we ask. ‘Stickers,’ he replies. His plan is to print hundreds of stickers, each depicting one of the animals in his images. Visitors to the gallery will then be encouraged to stick them all over a selection of everyday objects, including a full-sized car. The point, of course, is to help us see both the objects and the animals they’re soon to be covered with in a different light, so we can learn to value both equally. The title of the piece is, appropriately, ‘Time to Wrap Up’.

Time Out Singapore: ‘The Sew-Out Show: Kinetic Abstraction’

14 Apr 2015: Kevin Ou paints with light

Photo: art-management.com

Photo: art-management.com

‘I was holding the camera – set on long exposure – with one hand, right in the middle of Orchard Road during Christmas, and I was just jumping around like this,’ laughs Kevin Ou as he stands up and waves his arms around like a madman. ‘I had a few friends with me, and they were like, “This is getting embarrassing.” Passers-by were even trying to look into my viewfinder to try and see what sort of photos I was taking.’

The images, if they had managed to sneak a peek, are as trippy as they might have imagined. The festive lights are captured as long, thin and multi-coloured streaks mid-dance – like a screenshot of the iTunes visualiser. ‘I wanted to return to the roots of photography,’ he explains. ‘The word “photography” comes from the Greek words “phós” (light) and “graphis” (stylus). Together, the terms mean “drawing with light”, and I wanted to interpret that literally. Many people do this by moving the light source, but I thought it might be interesting to move both the lights and the camera.’

Entitled Kinetic Abstraction, the series was shot in Singapore, Hong Kong and Nepal, and takes a very different approach from that of Ou’s existing body of work: he specialises in commercial and portrait photography, often of A-list celebrities such as Snoop Dogg and Emma Stone. ‘Most of my shoots are staged and carefully set up, so this is something I’m not used to at all,’ Ou admits.

The prints are shown at the second edition of The Sew-Out Show by tcc – The Gallery, and they’ll also take the form of cushion covers, bowties and other accessories. Visitors decide on an item, then use stencils to trace the outline of the accessories onto a section of the artwork. Local design collective The General Company will handcraft the products, whose prices range from $50 to $180.

‘I love photography and I love fashion, so this is a great way for the two media to combine and be made into something that’s completely yours,’ says Ou.

Time Out Singapore: Tan Ngiap Heng

Tan Ngiap Heng - Body of Works

17 Oct 2014: One of the most well-known and sought-after performance photographers in Singapore today, Tan Ngiap Heng has long held a fascination with the human body. His next exhibition, aptly named Body of Work, comprises three series shot over three years. He hopes his photos ‘go further than just creating a beautiful image, like I have done previously with my dance photography work’. Among the three series, ‘Portraits in History’ especially caught our eye. The images here consist of portraits with a twist: Tan asked his subjects to bring their old, personal photographs, which were then projected onto their bodies.

‘I experimented with a combination of poses and photographs on the bodies until I was satisfied with the images,’ he explains. ‘I was exploring portraits not only by what the subject looks like, but also the events in the subject’s past.’

One of the resulting images is of actor Michael Tan, pictured above. ‘The picture projected onto him is from his youth and it shows his sister, whom he was very close to and who has passed away,’ he tells us. ‘I met Michael while I was documenting [Nine Years Theatre’s 2013 play] Twelve Angry Men. For most of my ‘Portraits as History’ series, I had shot relatively young people – dancers and actors whom I knew would be open enough to pose naked for me in portraits – but it was wonderful when he accepted my invitation to be in the series. He and his photographs are older than those of my other subjects, but his presence lends a gravitas to his portraits.’

‘Starlight Sonata’ and ‘Dancing with Light’ are the remaining two series. For the former, which he created in a workshop in Tuscany in 2010, Tan mounted the camera on a tripod, hit the timer and took ‘a long exposure of me prancing around in my birthday suit’, he recalls. Long exposures were again employed in ‘Dancing with Light’, but Tan didn’t feature in these shots. Rather, the photographer captured the whirl of dancers with LED lights in their hands.

Time Out Singapore: Annie Leibovitz

With a huge collection of renowned American photographer Annie Leibovitz’s images having arrived in Singapore last month, Gwen Pew looks back at her life and career.

Annie Leibovitz

8 May 2014: Annie Leibovitz is without a doubt one of the biggest and most sought-after names in the world of photography today, and anyone who’s anyone has likely been shot by her at some point. Whether or not we’ve been aware of it, we’ve all likely seen a Leibovitz picture: from iconic portraits such as Yoko Ono and a naked John Lennon curled up next to her (taken hours before he was shot) to a barebodied and heavily pregnant Demi Moore, or more recently, her series of A list celebs dressed up as various Disney characters (such as Taylor Swift as Rapunzel and Jessica Biel as Pocahontas) to Kanye West and Kim Kardashian on the much talked about cover of last month’s Vogue.

Now 64, Leibovitz has had a glittering career that began in 1970 with Rolling Stone magazine, which was just starting out at the time. She became their chief photographer three years later, and held that post for the next decade before working for Vanity Fair, Vogue and other esteemed titles. Known for having a sharp eye for aesthetics and for being an uncompromising artist who doesn’t stop until she gets the image she’s after, Leibovitz has earned a string of awards and honours in recognition of her efforts.

Since last month, a collection of nearly 200 Leibovitz photos taken between 1990 and 2005 has been on display at the ArtScience Museum. Entitled A Photographer’s Life, the exhibition was originally shown at Brooklyn Museum in New York and features a mix of images she took as part of her assignments, as well as more private ones from her personal life. While there’s no shortage of celebrity images (such as the cover image of a young Leonardo DiCaprio with a swan draped around his neck), the more poignant images are perhaps the blackand- white ones showing the laughter and tears Leibovitz shared with her friends and family, including her three daughters and renowned essayist and writer Susan Sontag, with whom she had a romantic relationship until Sontag passed away in 2009. Here we present a selection of her more personal pictures on display.

Time Out Singapore: Edward Burtynsky

As award-winning Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky makes his solo Singapore debut this month, he shares some of the best shots from his latest series, Water, with Gwen Pew.

Edward Burtynsky

3 Mar 2014: Edward Burtynsky’s photographs are not difficult to identify: the sweeping landscapes as nature is carved up by industry and other traces of mankind, all contorted into an almost abstract canvas, are presented in a larger-than- life format in galleries around the world.

Born in Ontario, Canada, the 58-year-old has earned a slew of honours and awards for his powerful works, having won the first TED Prize in 2005, being named Officer of the Order of Canada in 2006 and receiving the President’s Medal from the Geological Society of America last year. He even had a critically-acclaimed documentary film made about him, titled Manufactured Landscapes.

Instead of creating his images just for the sake of it, however, he aims to use them as a visual way to encourage people to start thinking about what we’re doing to our planet. When he made three wishes upon accepting the TED Prize – each winner traditionally has to make at least one wish, which the prize money will help them achieve – they were to work on an IMAX film, to build a website to help children think about how to protect the planet, and to create, in his words, ‘a massive and productive worldwide conversation about sustainable living’.

As a result, Meet the Greens was launched in 2007 with the tagline: ‘a site for kids about looking after the planet’, and his support for the blog WorldChanging (of which he’s also the chairman) has led to the website flourishing into one of the Top Ten Green Blogs selected by The Guardian.

While his previous projects have focused on oil, quarries and mines, his latest series is entitled Water, which will be showing in Singapore this month at Sundaram Tagore Gallery. There are 180 works altogether, around 30 of which will be shown here. He began working on the series in 2007, and it has since grown to become his most ambitious collection to date. To capture the shots, he traveled the world, from Iceland to India, and went up to heights of over 7,000 feet with planes or helicopters to achieve his desired perspective.

‘While trying to accommodate the growing needs of an expanding, and very thirsty civilisation, we are reshaping the Earth in colossal ways. In this new and powerful role over the planet, we are also capable of engineering our own demise,’ Burtynsky says in his artistic statement for the series. ‘We have to learn to think more long-term about the consequences of what we are doing, while we are doing it. My hope is that these pictures will stimulate a process of thinking about something essential to our survival; something we often take for granted – until it’s gone.’

In conjunction with the exhibition, Watermark, a feature film he co-created with Manufactured Landscapes director Jennifer Baichwal during his journey in creating the Water series, will also be having its Singapore premiere at Sundaram Tagore Gallery this month.

Time Out Singapore: Alain Soldeville

French photographer Alain Soldeville’s images of Bugis Street in the 1980s show a glimpse of the area’s colourful past. Gwen Pew takes a trip down memory lane.

Creatures of the Night

24 Jan 2014: Armed with a degree in Economic Sciences but a passion for photography, Alain Soldeville, now 56, decided to take a trip to Asia from his native France in the early 1980s. Having read about the transgender community that used to gather around Singapore’s Bugis Street, his curiosity led him – and his camera – to the fascinating underbelly of town.

After spending a few months in Singapore, he went on to become a photojournalist for a range of magazines, including The New York Times, Vogue Homme and the French edition of National Geographic, before quitting the commercial side of the art form to focus on taking images centred on the themes of memory, identity and globalisation. Amidst the many projects he immersed himself in, he had completely forgotten about the photographs he took in Bugis Street for almost 25 years, until he reencountered them by chance and realised how incredible his shots of the long-disappeared scenes are.

As the works finally make their way back to Singapore for an exhibition at Objectifs at the end of this month, Soldeville shares his memories of yesteryear’s Singapore with us.

What first brought you to Singapore back in the 1980s?

I left Paris for Bangkok in December 1980 to make a long trip across Asia to take photographs wherever my mood would take me. I never studied photography at school, as there were not a lot [of arts schools around] at the beginning of the ’80s. I ended up in Singapore to buy photo equipment as it was cheaper there than in France.

What brought you to Bugis Street? And how did you first become acquainted with the people in your photographs?

I read an article about Bugis Street in a travel book, and I was interested to see it and make some photos. I met two Swiss guys in the hotel I stayed in and we went together to visit the area at night. I quickly met Anita, a friendly transgender of Malaysian background, who introduced me to her friends. I carried my camera everywhere and everybody knew it. I made portraits of them in the street, sometimes with sailors when they arrived from the harbour. They liked having me photograph them and they often posed for pictures.

What were some of the surprising things you discovered about the community?

I found out that they had a strong sense of community: they were living in a communal apartment building far from downtown. In doing so, they could defend themselves against the attacks of aggressive clients and neighbours. As Anita told me, they were rejected by people close to them, but they were tolerated by society and could live upon their trade.

Why did you decide to start photographing them? Did it ever feel awkward?

Before going to Singapore, I knew that I wanted to photograph Bugis Street and the girls there. I was interested by transsexuality and I had read about the subject a long time before [going to Singapore], when I was in France. I was curious about people living on the edges of society and those not accepting its codes. It was not awkward to photograph the Bugis Street community, but sometimes I had to be cautious, as I was close to some girls and not to others – they considered themselves as women and jealousy was a part of the game – but most of them permitted me to make photos. [One of the few refusals] I got was from a girl who was modeling for fashion magazines and didn’t want casual photos made of her.

How long did you spend with them?

I spent about six weeks in Singapore from February to May 1981 before I left for Australia, where I worked for six months in order to continue traveling. I returned briefly to Singapore after Australia in 1984, as I was traveling to Indonesia to photograph stories for magazines, and [made a brief stop to] stay a few weeks at some friends’ house. I met the girls I knew again and made new photos of them.

Did you find that the photos you took on your first trip were vastly different from the ones you took on the second one?

Looking at the photos, I would say [the latter ones] were maybe technically a bit better, but [they were all] made in the same spirit, as that work was, to me, a continuing series. From 1985, I became a photojournalist and worked for magazines until 1999. The kind of series I am doing now, 32 years later, are very different. I changed a lot and my photos did too. They are more conceptual and [more of a] mises en scène (set up or staging) between fiction and reality. I explore the edges between documentary and mise en scène. That said, the Bugis Street series contains a lot of set up photos, too.

What are some interesting stories from your time with the transsexual community?

In 1984, as I was going back to Singapore for the second time, a friend of mine took me to the notorious Thief Alley behind Bugis Street at night. Transsexuals were selling their charms in a park; nearby, the dimly-lit alley was full of people walking along, and we could hardly move. I was taking photographs of girls posing inside houses and trying to get clients in – my friend told me later on that the houses were used a long time ago by opium smokers. As we reached the end of the lane, I felt hands along my body searching for my wallet and my money – a thief in Thief Alley!

How many photos did you take in total, and how many will you be showing at Objectifs?

I made a few hundreds photographs altogether, and 50 [out of those are especially interesting]. I will show about 27 prints in both colour and black and white at Objectifs.

Are you still in touch with anyone from the photographs?

No. Unfortunately, I lost contact with them after 1984. I would be happy to find and meet them again after all this time, though.

What do you think when you look back on the photos today?

I forgot about that work for almost 25 years. It felt strange the first time I looked at the photos again – it was like watching excerpts from the film of my own life, my youth. I was trying to find a way as a photographer and to discover the world through it. I am rather touched by these photos as they illustrate the way I always used to represent people in my work: in respecting them, showing their fragility and their humanity.

Time Out Singapore: Robert Zhao Renhui

Robert Zhao Renhui has become one of Singapore’s best-known and most acclaimed artists through his single-minded obsession with zoology. As he unveils his latest series – focusing on birds, bees and flowers – Gwen Pew heads to his studio to meet the man behind the camera.

Robert Zhao Renhui in his studio. Image courtesy of Morven Koh.

Robert Zhao Renhui in his studio. Image courtesy of Morven Koh.

5 Dec 2013: The bright yellow door is unlocked, the lights inside flicker on, and into a jungle of creativity we tumble. There’s almost too much to take in all at once: on the central table alone, there’s a box filled to the brink with iridescent beetles in packets, a fake yellow flower with long tassels pokes its slender neck out from a shiny bronze vase, a dead fish lies pickling in a jar with a few other bugs next to a microscope. The rest of the room brims with books, shelves, boxes and framed photographs of landscapes and various animals lining the walls.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that we had stumbled into a zoologist’s laboratory, but this is actually the studio of Robert Zhao Renhui, tucked away on the fifth floor of Goodman Arts Centre. ‘It’s sort of like my brain, don’t you think?’ says the 30-year-old artist, surveying the space with quiet pride. ‘I work over there, I talk over there, I sleep over there – next to the bookshelves – but only when I have to work late…’

The whimsical nature of the studio reflects that of the man himself, who has a tendency to pause in the middle of his explanations, as though lost in his own stream of consciousness, and fluently flits between speaking about the real world and the one that he has conjured up through his photographs. He is, however, crystal clear about at least one thing: ‘I am not a zoologist or a scientist. I am an artist,’ he states emphatically. ‘People assume that I like animals just because of my work, and I do like them, but as an artist I’m interested in finding out why I like them and what makes me want to look at them.’

His fascination with animals started at an early age. He remembers always wanting to go to zoos wherever he went, and started collecting and taking photos of roadkill – which he kept in jars filled with alcohol – when he was 16. Today, he is known for his award-winning images of animals and the natural world in general, and operates under a fictional society called the Institute of Critical Zoologists. If you look under the ‘History’ section of the website, it says that the institute was founded in 1996 as a merger between Japanese and Chinese animal centres. In reality, however, Zhao established the platform in 2008 during his time at the Camberwell College of Arts in the UK. Furthermore, most of the life-like animals in his pictures are, in fact, usually either dead or realistic-looking models and toys collected from various sources, including pet shops (where he buys most of his dead fish and birds) and donations from various friends.

‘Living animals are too difficult to work with. They’re always moving and you can’t control them,’ he says. ‘I’m not really trying to mess with people’s heads. I just want to challenge the way we see things and prompt my audience to be more reflective. Institutes and photography are both authoritative sources, and I want people to question them. I’m against reading everything too simply.’

2013 has been a busy year for Zhao. He was one of six local artists to be selected to take part in the President’s Young Talents exhibition earlier this year, and is currently showcasing his expansive series, A Guide to the Flora and Fauna of the World, at the 2013 Singapore Biennale (on display at the Peranakan Museum), which is essentially an encyclopaedic series of portraits of over 50 domesticated animals or species that have learned to adapt to man-made environments.

During his research for the project, one thing that captured his interest in particular was a species he calls the ‘blood bee’. ‘It’s this kind of bee in New York that started producing red honey,’ Zhao explains. ‘And they found out that it’s because they’ve been drinking juice produced at a cherry factory.’

As he delved deeper into the world of bees, another series of works began to form. He found out that bees, along with most insects and birds, see and communicate in the ultraviolet spectrum – so attempting to present the world as they see it, Zhao shot a series of images with a handheld UV light. Each shot consists of six or seven different photos, all stitched together on Photoshop, where Zhao also enhanced the UV colours digitally.

The finished collection of nine photographs, named The Last Thing You See, opened last month at 2902 Gallery and will be showing until the start of January. Part of the idea, says Zhao, is to question the idea of vision and our understanding of what living things see.

‘You know, there are these spiders that spin very intricate webs in the forests and we’ve been mystified by them for ages, because surely they’d want to keep a trap invisible. We used to think that it’s to warn humans so that we don’t step on them,’ Zhao explains. ‘It wasn’t until recently that we realised that under UV lights they look like flowers to insects – flowers communicate with bees through UV to guide them to where the pollen is – so they will get confused and fly straight into it. Sometimes, our vision is more limiting than informative.’

While he has travelled far and wide – from the Arctic to deserts – to shoot his images, the current series are all shot locally; the orchids and birds were photographed at the Botanic Gardens and Jurong Bird Park respectively. As he puts it, ‘Singapore is a fruitful place to work. There’s more support and resources; I know where everything is and things get done faster.’

From the teenage roadkill collector messing around with his dad’s camera to a nationally-beloved photographer whose star is still on the rise, Zhao has certainly come a long way – and he has no intentions of stopping here. He doesn’t think that he’ll be moving away from working with animals and nature anytime soon, but looks forward to continuously refining his style.

And as for what happened to all those dead animals in jars that he painstakingly kept over the years? ‘I just threw them all out. I always thought that I could do something with them one day, but there really wasn’t much I could do. And it was just getting kind of gross,’ he says. ‘Yeah, just… gross.’

Time Out Singapore: Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze

Now based in Hong Kong, French photographer Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze has been spending the past few years capturing the Fragrant Harbour’s organised chaos through his camera lens. He speaks to Gwen Pew following the opening of his exhibition, Vertical Horizon, at Artistry last week.

Hong Kong-based French photographer, Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze. Image courtesy of the artist.

Hong Kong-based French photographer, Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze. Image courtesy of the artist.

22 Oct 2013: 

You’ve lived in Hong Kong for quite a few years now – why did you decide to move there?
In 2009 I was already in Asia, working in Tokyo as a visual artist. Then my contract ended and I graduated from my university in France, but I was not keen on working in France and wanted to keep traveling in Asia instead. In Japan I heard many good things about Hong Kong and how futuristic it was looking. So I decided to go witness it for myself.

Was the city a love-at-first-sight thing, or did it take you some time to get used to it?
At first I felt very impressed by the city, but I was thinking that it was much too packed, crowded and noisy. It took me some time to adapt to this new environment and to fully fall in love with the city’s lifestyle, the messiness of the streets and the unique visual impact of the buildings.

When did you first start taking photos of the city?
When I arrived in Hong Kong I was more focused on visual arts, but little by little, I grew fonder and fonder of the city, and I wanted to record it with the best accuracy I could. So in early 2010 I bought a camera and I started to switch my way of depicting Hong Kong from visual art to photography.

Tell us a bit more about Vertical Horizon – how did this set of photographs come about? What are you trying to show with them?
The project Vertical Horizon came up naturally. In 2011, as I was exploring the different districts of the city, I was taking many photos and among them were a few that I shot with a “Vertical Horizon angle”. In early 2012 I gathered four or five of these photos that used this angle, then the idea of making a larger series came up as I was sure I could find more places fitting this angle in HK. So I went through a thorough exploration of the city in order to find the best spots. My leitmotiv was mainly to share with people an unusual point of view on this city and how unique and impressive it could look.

Your images in this series all show a fascination with shapes and patterns formed by buildings – do you consciously go and look for these spaces, or are they usually places that you just come across?
Since my childhood, I have always been very into geometric shapes. As a kid I used to draw pages and pages of geometric shapes to depict sceneries or totally abstract patterns. So in a way, when I am creating these photos, I am searching for the spaces that will offer me the best way to express my thirst for geometric shapes.

Do you think the concept of Vertical Horizon could be replicated in other places too, or is it unique to Hong Kong?
I think that Hong Kong is definitely the most fitting city most for the concept of Vertical Horizon. Indeed, even by always using the same angle, I can still convey many different concepts from chaos to sleek modernity or even abstractness. It’s all thanks to HK’s heterogeneous urban area. I am pretty sure that in some other big cities I could find some interesting shots, but I don’t think I would be able to get such a variety of patterns and subjects.

Sum up Hong Kong in three words…
Visceral, chaotic yet beautiful.

Time Out Singapore: Mary-Ann Teo

After a ten-year hiatus, local photographer Mary-Ann Teo makes a comeback this month with a show of images shot by a pinhole camera made with a rubbish bin. Gwen Pew takes a closer look.

Mary-Ann Teo at work on her latest series, 'Through A Pinhole'. Image courtesy of the artist.

Mary-Ann Teo at work on her latest series, ‘Through A Pinhole’. Image courtesy of the artist.

3 Sep 2013: I developed an interest in photography in primary school because I felt I saw things differently from others,’ reminisces local photographer Mary-Ann Teo. ‘I would photograph drains with an Instamatic camera because they looked like pretty streams with their rust-stained concrete.’

Although the 39-year-old is now a full-time photography and art theory lecturer at various schools – such as Lasalle and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) – and has not held an exhibition since 2003, Teo never lost her gift of seeing the world in quirky ways. This month, she makes a comeback with cool images shot with a rather unusual contraption: a pinhole camera made from a recycled rubbish bin.

‘I’ve constructed pinhole cameras with the usual containers such as Milo and tea tins and boxes before,’ she says, while also admitting that this is the first time she has used something a bit more unconventional to snap pictures with. ‘The bin is suitable since it is round, which would give me a slight wide-angle effect in the images,’ she explains. ‘It has a proper lightproof cover and it was already black, so the only thing I had to do with it was to pierce a hole through one side of the bin and make a cover for it. It’s good for placing around the areas I wanted to photograph, and only took me half an hour to build.’

Regarding her hiatus from exhibiting, Teo says: ‘I am trying to get back into practice again, and create more interest in pinhole photography in the age of digital media at the same time. Pinhole photography is the simplest form of capturing images. It’s back to basics and one can get amazing photographs out of this.’

After her self-created contraption was made, Teo went out exploring the Kampong Glam area and ended up creating a series of around 15 intriguing photographs, which will be displayed at her solo show at Objectifs. All of them are in black and white, as it is her preferred style. ‘I find colours distracting,’ she explains. ‘There is a peculiar mystery to black and white. It’s quiet and strong.’

Teo admits she chose Kampong Glam as her shooting location mainly as a matter of convenience, as Objectifs was located nearby – after each shot, the paper negatives (still inside the bin) would need to be brought back to the gallery immediately to be developed. She adds, however, that ‘it was also a great opportunity to learn more about the history of this area. The Kampong Glam that used to be was very different from what it is now, even though it’s still an area for social gathering.’

Aside from the exhibition, Teo will also be conducting a workshop (on 7 Sep at Objectifs) to explain how pinhole cameras work. ‘I will be teaching participants how to make a pinhole camera, and they can take as many photos as time allows them,’ she says. When asked whether she’ll be bringing out her rubbish bin pinhole again in the future, she says with a smile, ‘I may use the camera for the workshop, and I am definitely keeping it for future projects as well. It’d be good to construct another camera with something different in the future, too!’

Time Out Singapore: Heman Chong

Born in Malaysia and raised in Singapore, Heman Chong, 36, is best known for his conceptual and often interactive pieces. His current solo show will feature three of his works, including the 100-photo series A Short Story About Singapore (Volume 1). Chong will also be launching his monograph, The Part in the Story Where We Lost Count of the Days, at the exhibition. He tells Gwen Pew more about Short Story.

XXXXXX by Heman Chong.

‘A Short Story About Singapore (Volume 1) #71’  by Heman Chong.

27 Jul 2013: ‘I started the work without thinking of it as a narrative, but more as way of taking notes of the environment around me. The oldest photograph actually dates back to 7 December 2004, and the newest is dated 27 July 2012.’

‘I never deliberately decide on my locations, but one of the things that I do a lot in Singapore is to take very long walks, and most of these images are shot while I walk across our city.’

‘One of my favourite works is ‘A Short Story About Singapore (Volume 1) #71’ [pictured], a photograph of a small handwritten sign by the owners of Sunny Bookshop announcing their move from Far East Plaza to Plaza Singapura. I collect photographs of handwritten signs by Singaporeans as a way of documenting a certain aesthetic present in how we communicate with each other in public. Also, I would often meander by Sunny Bookshop during my walks to buy a book. It has been a ritual for me for many years. I was very sad when it disappeared. So this one photograph has many meanings for me – one that’s of a collective memory that a group of Singaporeans share, but also a very distinct formal logic of aesthetics.’