Singapore International Photography Festival

By: Valerie Oliveiro

Better known as SIPF, the Singapore International Photography Festival runs throughout October with exhibitions in various venues across Singapore.

Festival Director Gwen Lee spoke at the press conference on the opening day. “If a big gathering of photographers could happen, what would it mean? It would be a platform for local talents to be showcased alongside international talents.”

When the SIPF held open calls, they didn’t forsee that the number of entries would rocket sky-high! “We never thought there’ll be a lot to exhibit. We selected out of 6,800 entries- the selecting process was not easy. It is based on talent, not accreditation. We felt that cost should not hinder art from being exhibited so the photos were printed after selection, sponsored by Epson,” added Gwen.

Terence Yeung, Singaporean curator and a lecturer at NAFA, explained why the team chose to go with an open call instead of a highly regulated selection process. “If we were to choose based on the photographer’s track record. it would have been difficult for young aficionados to enter. We didn’t specify that we wanted a certain genre only. It is open-themed.”

“The work chooses us,” he replied when asked how the curators chose the exhibited works. “A strong work speaks to you.”

“Look at who is taking up the camera in Singapore,” he added, “there was a strong response from Singaporeans because of camera phones. With the new generation, they report a new chapter and bring in new images. Their enthusiasm in photography is amazing, but the photography critique culture is missing.”

Ark Fongsmut from Bangkok was also invited to curate the SIPF. He was rather impressed with the open calls as well. “It is brave. We (curators) all come from different backgrounds.. different political backgrounds so it is impressive that the SIPF team chose the “democratic” way of choosing the exhibited works. It was ambitious of the team to have open calls. It could have been too troublesome for the curators to choose out of so many.”

He likened the selection process to eating. “Don’t go out to find the food, let them come to you. Then, choose those that can communicate well.”

When asked if there are economic comforts for a photographer in Singapore, Singaporean curator Chow Chee Yong shared what he discussed with a friend. “Nearly everyone has a piano in the home in Singapore, but how many pianists do we know who are high earners? If you can name 3, that’s good already. So why do we ask what are the monetary returns of art or photography? It’s not about the economic returns. It is the pleasure of being appreciated by many and showcased to the world.”

“Currently, Singapore is not able to sustain an economy for artists. Corporate companies do help once in awhile, but the culture of corporate responsibility and the mentality of giving back to society is not strong yet in this region.  There is no philantrophic movement.”

“Ask yourself what is your intention of being a photographer? To make money? Then be a commercial photographer. But if you want to create a artistic image, then art is not economically sustainable. It depends on what your purpose is,” he added.

Guess how expensive it is to print these photos? “$1400 for a large one. And that’s before mounting, scanning, framing and printing mistakes.” We all laugh at that answer. I can imagine how many reprints must be done! Keep in mind that an Epson printer costs $1200 without refills and there are 6 colours of ink catridges to buy.

SIPF Fun Facts

  • NTU Photography students were in-charge of printing the photos.
  • There were 6,800 entries in total.
  • 2,108 entries were from Singaporean photographers. (31%)
  • 8 Singaporean photographers were selected.
  • About 80 volunteers are involved in the SIPF, most of them are photography students.

ArtZine talks to some of the SIPF volunteers.
Read what they have to say here.

Look out for:

Vee Speers (Australia) The Birthday Party
2902 Gallery, 11 Mount Sophia

Joel Yuen (Singapore) Foreign Workers of Singapore
Old School, 11 Mount Sophia


Exhibition Venues:

2902 Gallery
Asian Civilizations Museum
LASALLE College of the Arts
National Museum of Singapore
OldSchool, The Hall
SMU
The Heeren Shops


A chat with Singaporean photographer Robert Zhao, a festival volunteer whose photos are on display. What was he involved in? Read about it here.

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4 thoughts on “Singapore International Photography Festival

  1. Pingback: Festival Volunteers « ArtZine

  2. Pingback: Oct ‘08 Issue « ArtZine

  3. Pingback: Quick Chat with Zhao Renhui « ArtZine

  4. Pingback: SIPF Emerging Artist Award « ArtZine

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