Throughout the Exposure Award application period we're running weekly Q&As with each member on this year's judging panel. Gwen Lee is Co-founder and Director, Singapore Photography Festival and Director, DECK, Singapore. She shares her thoughts.
The Exposure Award was set up to give one experimental gallery working at the cutting-edge of photography a free booth at PHOTOFAIRS Shanghai. In your experience, how important are photography fairs for artists and galleries to raise their profile and be noticed by collectors?
There are many available channels, including online platforms, for photographers to promote their works. Photography fairs are a physical platform where people of many different backgrounds who have the interest and curiosities in photography gather and are interested to unearth new works by fresh and exciting talents.
In 2014 you co-founded DECK, an initiative to provide a year-round platform and residency program for photographers in Singapore. Why are initiatives like DECK and the Exposure Award needed in the photography industry?
DECK stands on a narrow strip of land within the arts and cultural district in Singapore. The name is derived from our mission for photography – ‘Discovery, Engagement, Community, Knowledge’. DECK acts as a bridge and proxy for creators and public to meet and engage in meaningful conversations about photography.
Will there be anything you particularly hope to see during the judging process? And do you have any advice for those applying to the Awards?
I hope to encounter works that express or respond to the way we live. As a jury member, I look forward to seeing new ideas behind images that push and expand on our current perception and understanding of this medium. For interested applicants, give yourself ample time to look through your portfolio—whether in making selection or editing. And a well-crafted statement about your work is often appreciated by the jury during our discussion between submissions.
You moved from six years of experience in the museum industry to becoming the Director of the Singapore International Photography Festival (SIPF). You've said your move into photography was driven by your passion for your medium. What is it about the field that appeals to you?
To say photography is a powerful medium is an understatement. Personally, photography through the eyes of artists have never failed to surprise me. It inspires me in both internal and external world, it elevates the mundane and ordinary, and it brings new adventures of experiencing different thoughts and emotions.
You set up SIPF in 2008 because there was a gap in the Singapore art scene for photographers, 'there was no University for photography, festival or platform for artists and photographers who had received an education in photography, to share their work with a wider audience...We wanted to create a place where the emerging and the professional photographer could meet and discover that photography as a medium could be dynamic and find out the stories behind each other’s work.'* Tell us about the current art climate in Singapore, does photography have more presence? And if so, is there a particular genre that has wider appeal than others?
In the last 12 years, the field of photography has been growing and expanding—likewise, photography professionals and the community have followed suit. In Singapore, photography has been growing as a part of the visual arts scene, together with expansion of contemporary arts in the arts market, museums and galleries, and art academies. Photography as fine arts has been shaped to become part of Singapore’s arts landscape. In last 5 years, there has been a sharp increase of photography and image-based exhibitions in artist-run spaces, commercial galleries and museums. Museums in Singapore have established interest in photography acquisitions and exhibition, and this is accompanied by a rise in new photo curators, researchers and writers.
How have you seen audiences to photography fairs change since setting up SIPF in 2008?
Yes, the audience for photography is expanding and is becoming increasingly diverse. But what is worthy to note is that our audiences are growing across our photography platforms – in fairs and festivals. This speaks of photography’s enduring ability to intrinsically people of all ages and walks of life.