Being Together: Family and Portraits Photographing with John Clang


(I apologize for my absence here. New teaching gigs, writing deadlines, and family have kept me busy of late.)

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Parenting isn’t easy and it’s even more difficult when your nearest and dearest are on the other side of the world. So, we use Skype daily. Our parents get to see their granddaughter in “real time” and interact with her as best they can. (We are quite blessed that they do visit on a regular basis. In fact, my parents will be in Singapore for an entire month beginning next week!)

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I loved, loved, loved New York City-based Singaporean photographer John Clang’s Being Together: Family and Portraits at the National Museum of Singapore.

Via The New York Times:

In Singapore, it is a common practice for entire families to gather on special occasions for a formal picture, often at a studio, with the resulting image framed and prominently displayed at home. The growing tendency of younger family members to take jobs abroad, however, has left many modern portraits missing a relation or two. So the Singaporean photographer John Clang devised a solution, piggybacking on the video-calling technology that already helps ease the dislocation of separated family members: Skype. Clang, who is based in New York, tried this with his own family first, then used the Internet, embassies and recommendations from friends to track down other Singaporean families with members there and in far-flung places. Those in Singapore stood before their webcam-enabled computers and called their distant relatives on Skype. In these various locations, Clang projected the Skype image onto a wall and then photographed the callers together with their flesh-and- blood kin. No Photoshop was needed, and the entire process is simple enough for people everywhere to take advantage of in migratory times. ‘‘It bridges the gap between the two families that are apart,’’ Clang says.

This exhibition examines Singaporeans’ sense of identity, rootedness, and connection to their families both in Singapore and abroad, in cities such as London, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, and Tokyo. The exhibition showcases over 90 works by the artist and more than 40 historical portraits of the family from the National Museum’s permanent collection.

While the show is necessarily about a predicament that many Singaporeans face in the context of today’s globalized world, it will also resonate deeply with anyone who has journeyed overseas *cough cough*.

Being Together is likely one of the best museums shows I’ve seen here in Singapore. It runs until May 26, 2013. Go, go, go!

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