I saw the photographs of Lui Hock Seng initially on the BBC.
Fish-sellers at Ellenborough Market at Clarke Quay
They are from an exhibit titled Passing Time at the Objectifs gallery in Singapore and they will also be a book. They cover a long period of the visual story of the city and it’s changes. What impressed me was the quality of the work. Usually this kind of historical photography is fine but not superb. His images would be significant whether you know the context or not. They are beautifully and thoughtfully composed.
Unfortunately I could only find a limited amount of information about his work in English so I am only able to title some of his images in this post. And two of the images are slightly asymmetrical. The BBC has him talking about his work as he walks through modern Singapore and has a stunning group of his photos.
Quotes are by Akanksha Raja from an article in Artsquator.
Passing Time is 81-year-old Lui Hock Seng’s first solo exhibition, curated by Objectifs manager Ryan Chua, for whom it was also a first as a curator. It was inspired by an article published in The Straits Times profiling Lui: a former car mechanic, now an office cleaner at Singapore Press Holdings, with a lifelong passion and latent talent for photography.
Lui’s interest in photography began as a teenager in the late 1950s, and, with a Rolleiflex gifted to him by his elder brother, he developed his practice as a member of the now-defunct Southeast Asia Photographic Society. This was the closest to a photographic or artistic education that he had received. After all, one can learn only so much about the technicalities of making good photographs; to hone a sharp eye and a sensitivity to “the decisive moment” is what turns skill into magic…
Passing Time is a visual time capsule, perhaps telling stories of Singapore’s early years more impressively in black-and-white snapshots of light and shadow than some school textbooks can.
Man burning crushed cockle shells to make whitewash paint.
Tree of Life, Jurong c. 1960s – 1970
Her commentary on this photo gives a sense of someone from Singapore’s reaction to a specific work.
It was hard for me to believe images such as Tree of Life (above) were taken in Jurong, a neighbourhood I frequented as a schoolgirl while it was rapidly developing into the crowded and commercial hub it is today. These images, and a series of pictures of lone trees displayed on the walls of the retail store, made me – having grown up recognising Singapore by its endless skyscrapers and the sound of an MRT train whizzing past somewhere nearby – yearn a little bit for the idyllic calmness and wide, open landscapes of a Singapore long gone.
Ship Repair Merdeka Bridge
This is one of the photographs that particularly struck me. I love his use of light. I wish I could see the exhibition and may very well buy the book.