A spectrum of emotions in greyscale
15 February 1963. Television Singapura had its first broadcast; people heralded the age of the monochrome moving image. A decade later, colour television was introduced and the world of monochrome faded away.
Black-and-white pictures from the past, however, are back in vogue, riding the wave of nostalgia as urban progress marches on. Tapping into this sentiment is the exhibition, Portrait of Home, at the photography and film centre Objectifs in Middle Road.
The show features monochrome pictures of landscapes, industries and families photographed by veteran lensman Lim Kwong Ling, 87. More than just a casual stroll down memory lane, his photos hold a lens up to post-independence Singapore and what home means.
We asked Lim about the stories behind three of his favourite pictures in the show, and how he feels seeing them again after all these years.
Mata Ikan, 1960s
I used to frequent Mata Ikan, a kampung near Tanah Merah and Changi, to take photos. I wasn’t exactly sure what the children were doing, pulling the rope attached to the boat, but I thought it would make a good picture. I wanted to capture their innocence and how to them, everything could seem like a game.
Life was simpler for kids then, unlike today, where they are under a lot of stress due to school work. Also, children would play with anyone, their backgrounds didn’t matter. I feel that kids were more innocent then, that there was more cohesion among people who were different.
Potong Pasir village, 1960s
Potong Pasir holds special memories for me. I had many relatives living there, and when I was young, my mother and I would often visit them. I returned in the 1960s to photograph the place because Singapore was rapidly changing, and I wanted to capture this place before it changed. I went to shoot early in the morning and I found the place to be a beauty to behold.
Looking at the photo now, the landscape is still beautiful. I am also reminded of the kampung spirit back then. Everyone lived in harmony; communication and interactions flowed freely, and everyone felt like a brother or sister. Nowadays, I find that interactions can be a bit lacking.
Aerial view of Singapore River from OCBC Centre, 1976
This picture was taken from OCBC Building when it was near completion. A fellow photography friend, who was doing the sign for the building, asked me if I wanted to take pictures from the building of the surrounding area. I said yes immediately. To me, the Singapore River is an unmistakeable landmark, its development a mirror of our nation’s progress. There was always so much happening – boats coming in and people carrying goods or going about their business.
The photo reminds me of how things change all the time. With technological advancement and progress, the river is no longer used in the way that it was before. It points to what is possible when we work hard towards our goal and adapt to changing times.
The replies were edited and condensed. Details about Portrait of Home here.