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The Courtauld | Framing the Body: Yip Cheong Fun and Singapore Photography in the 1960s and 1970s

January 28, 2022 @ 6:30 am - 7:30 am

This session of Addressing Images is based on the work of Singapore photographer Yip Cheong Fun (1903-1989) in the 1960s and 1970s. We will discuss how Yip achieved 美感 (mei gan), or a feeling of beauty, that he along with other “amateur” practitioners in the local photographic community were seeking in the vignettes they composed, sometimes on group field trips across the island city.
Anchoring the discussion is Beauty on Top, made up of concentric rectangles in partial shadow that draws our attention to the female protagonist standing off-centre, her wavy hair and what we can see of her floral qipao contrasting with the angular environment. This photograph by Yip was accepted and hung at the Bournemouth Camera Club International Exhibition in 1964. His participation in photography contests serves as a form of documentation of his work, which he treated more as a hobby than a profession, even after winning multiple awards.
Writings on the oeuvres of Yip and his contemporaries, such as Lim Kwong Ling (1932-), Tan Lip Seng (1942-) and Wu Peng Seng (1915-2006), have thus far focused on the choices they made with general composition and the use of light, and not yet their depictions of the human figure. In this Research Forum event, we will examine how this band of photographers framed the body through their camera lenses. We will also consider how the visual portraits they created can collectively enrich what we know about life in a rapidly urbanising Singapore at the time.
Nadya Wang is a PhD candidate at The Courtauld Institute of Art where she is completing her thesis, titled “Accidental Career Girl to Working Mother of the Year: Her World, Women and the Fashion Industry in Singapore, 1974-1990”. She is Founder and Editor of Art & Market and Fashion & Market, which present specialist content on practices within the Southeast Asian art and fashion communities respectively. Nadya is also a lecturer in the School of Fashion at LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore.
Organised by Rebecca Arnold (The Courtauld) and Kathryn Reed (The Courtauld)