As part of Singapore Art Week (22 to 30 Jan), art takes over SMU’s Li Ka Shing Library with an exhibition by students using art photography as a medium to communicate and share their personal perspectives.
Twelve students from last year’s Open Call were selected to participate in a ‘Digital Photography: Visual Diary’ workshop with Objectifs Centre for Photography & Film, where they explored the art of visual storytelling and developed their photo projects in December 2020.
Now they present their photo projects in an exhibition titled Annotations at the Li Ka Shing Library. Their photographic narratives—that share stories on loneliness, resilience, connection with nature, the life of a migrant worker, and journey of self-discovery amongst others—are embedded across the Library on the 2nd and 3rd floor. Like notations in the margins, they reveal an exchange within and between themselves, the city, and campus life. The students’ photographic works not only complement the artworks from the SMU Art Collection that are displayed on the 4th and 5th floor, but also add to the pool of perspectives and stories, creating a conversation between the students and artists.
The exhibition, which is also part of Singapore Art Week, is on view from 22 January to 28 February 2021, and features the photo projects of Andrea Vincent (School of Social Sciences, 2019), Celeste Wong (Lee Kong Chian School of Business, 2020), Dhriti Trehan (School of Economics, 2017), Jerald Heng (Lee Kong Chian School of Business, 2018), Makarios Tang Way (School of Social Sciences, 2020), Meutia Ananda (Lee Kong Chian School of Business, 2020), Prarthana Chandani (Lee Kong Chian School of Business, 2019), Shabbir Akhtar (Lee Kong Chian School of Business, 2020), Tan Huei Suen (School of Computing and Information Systems, 2017), Vishakha Choudhary (Lee Kong Chian School of Business, 2019), Xu Moyu (School of Accountancy, 2020), and Yap Ying Ying (Lee Kong Chian School of Business, 2020).
Said Kamiliah Bahdar, SMU Art Programme Manager and Curator of the Exhibition, “The students who are participating were given free rein in pursuing the subjects of their visual narratives, and as a whole, their photo projects provide a panorama of the everyday experiences of living through a pandemic. The photo projects reflect the stories of isolation, lockdown, home, and familial relations but also of self-discovery, empathy, and exploring the overlooked.”
Genesis of the exhibition
The digital photography workshop and exhibition was conceptualised soon after the SMU Libraries collaboration with SMUSAIC on a photography competition and exhibition in 2019. The Libraries wanted to work more closely with students to develop and showcase the fruits of their interests and creativity through the medium of art photography, whilst also making connections with arts spaces in the Bras Basah.Bugis Precinct to further collaboration with local partners.
Particularly, in an increasingly image-based culture, art photography draws us—the creator and the viewer— in to look closely and critically, thereby honing our visual literacy and storytelling skills. Libraries have long had a role in cultivating critical thinking and literacies; the workshop engaged students in developing these skills in new and innovative ways.
Over five sessions in December, under the guidance of Deanna Ng, a Singaporean photographer, participants explored the creation of a personal narrative and visual storytelling through their own collection of photographs and images. It offered a rich co-curricular experience aligned with SMU’s Graduate Learning Outcomes, particularly that of intellectual and creative skills.
Beyond improving technical proficiency in photography, participants also developed visual literacy through discussions on how photography can be used as a communication tool to inspire and broaden perspectives in this digital age.
Here is what several of our participants of the workshop shared:
Makarios Tang Way: “This workshop and exhibition constantly ensured I was pushed outside of my comfort zone as a photographer. I experienced for the first time how intimate photography can be, having to snap the sights around me, as well as the necessity of intentional integrity in presenting on an issue that we sometimes overlook.”
Jerald Heng: “Having professionals guide us through, providing insightful critique to our work and eventually seeing everything come to life was a great learning process.”
Meutia Ananda: "I am blessed to have benefited from the advice given during the workshop with SMU Libraries and Objectifs. My approach to making a photo series has now improved as the workshop equipped us with useful references and tips on curation."
Dhriti Trehan: “The last 1.5 months working on the exhibition pieces gave me the opportunity to discover and work on my personal style as I explored new themes and subjects. I thoroughly enjoyed my journey with Objectifs and I am grateful to receive this platform to share my work with everyone.”
Tan Huei Suen: “This opportunity by SMU Libraries and Objectifs gave me a new lens on how to view photography as an art form. I got a better grasp of what professionals saw and it was often different from how I saw my own photographs. It was very useful to learn from critique on why certain pictures worked while others did not. While honing the eye takes practice and lots of trial and error, I found the sessions fruitful in giving me a further starting point. The concept I chose to explore was also a deep dive into how open and authentic I could be and I am proud of the process of learning more about how much of me goes into my art. I have always loved photography and this experience has given me the tools to approach photography in new ways.”
Guided Walkthroughs of the exhibition and SMU Art Collection at Li Ka Shing Library
In conjunction with the exhibition, SMU Libraries are holding guided walkthroughs led by their Art Programme Manager of both the exhibition and artworks from the SMU Art Collection located at Li Ka Shing Library. Slots are limited and by registration only.
To register for your guided walkthrough, email us at artcollection [at] smu.edu.sg.