Gwen Lee is the co-founder and director of Singapore International Photography Festival and DECK gallery – an independent art space that supports Southeast Asian contemporary photography. In 2010, she was nominated and awarded with the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Culture award for her contribution to the art scene in Singapore. Gwen Lee is one of the Judges of the France + Singapore Photographic Arts Award, showed from 1 to 21 December 2016 at AF Gallery. More information here.
What has triggered your passion for photography?
Photography is a great adventure for me since 14 years old. I was part of the school photography club, and there are regular club outings to various parts of Singapore. This passion continues and years later we founded the Singapore International Photography Festival in 2008.
For the 5th edition of SIPF, you have chosen the theme of “the archive”. Could you explain this choice?
The medium of photography as a young medium (compare to painting) is constantly evolving with many roles in our society. These roles have increasing blurred as public engages with photography on social platforms, images taken with mobile phone, and sharing live feed constantly. The massive production of images do not necessary produce good photography, and the roles of the medium have shifted and expanded from its invention to encompass wider aspect of lives than we could imagined. People are constantly taking pictures, and beyond a record of what we, the images have become a visual markers; directing and defining who we are. The Archive hope to bring these phenomenon into discussion through the works of the photographers in this 5th edition of the festival.
Deck gallery Singapore
Photography still struggles to be recognized as an art medium in Singapore. How could you explain it and why do you think it should be spread?
The social history of photography in Singapore is different from those in Europe and US. Photography is perceived foremost as a tools of record in forms of photo studio, news coverage, and commercial advertising. You could say the medium is perceived as a pragmatic tool, and less as a medium of arts. It was only later in the early 80s, we start to see use of photography by artists, and serious hobbyists as a form of expression. Later years, with the flourish of contemporary arts from late 90s onwards, we notice the intersection of photography with contemporary arts, and the rise of young artists who returned from their oversea studies in London and US, then onwards a new wave of contemporary photography start to take place. The photography as medium is surging forward, and perhaps more than we could imagine, it is in constant flux, and its definition is still evolving, and which perhaps have attracted many contemporary artists to embrace this medium as their choice for creation.
During this year’s festival, we will all have the chance/opportunity to discover artworks in MRT stations. Could you explain the reasons behind this project?
The nature of public space engages people of all walks of life. The purpose is in line with the mission of the festival, which we believe photography could be enjoyed by everyone. By placing the works in the MRT Stations, we hope it spark new dialogues between the artists and the public. Ultimately the showcases at 6 train stations is one big step forward in nurturing the appreciation for photography, and enriching the life of the commuters.