Reflect/Refract: Essays on Photography in Singapore

Deanna Ng 2

If you have even the least bit of interest in contemporary visual culture in Singapore (and especially photography and surrounding discourses that utilize photography), get your hands on Reflect/Refract: Essays on Photography in Singapore, a new journal published by photography and filmmaking centre Objectifs.

According to co-editors Charmaine Toh and Cyril Wong, Reflect/Refract “humbly [aims] to help fill an embarrassing void that continues to exist in our country’s arts culture  with regard to in-depth art criticism, particularly with regards to the visual arts.” They argue that “there are perhaps too many artists and too few art writers with sufficient space—and freedom—to critique our country’s aesthetic output.”

I agree; a journal like this is much needed. Occasionally, one can find a shoddily researched “review” in local newspapers and magazines. But it is rare to read well written and intellectually rigorous art criticism in print. I enjoyed: “Blindspot: Imaging People in Photographs” by Bridget Tracy Tan, a look at the history of portraiture; “Yesterday Once More: Nostalgia and Photography in Singapore” by Charmaine Toh, a visual essay about the proliferation of different types of nostalgias in the current age; and “The Non-Affirmative: Jason Wee, Photography, Scopophobia” by Louis Ho, a discussion of the oeuvre of multidisciplinary artist Jason Wee that places Wee as “one of the most critical voices of the emergent generation of Singaporean artists.”

Reflect/Refract: Essays on Photography in Singapore is available at Objectifs and Select Books for S$20.

(Additional credits: Ann Siang Hill by Deanna Ng.)

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