Arts and Culture
This paper examines the way pictorial photography provided a space to imagine a new Singapore landscape and identity after World War II as Singapore moved towards self-governance. I argue that pictorial photography's emphasis on expression and beauty gave photographers an element of control over the rapidly changing physical environment and to manage the uncertainty of independence and the recent trauma of the Japanese occupation. Over time, it also became a way to assert Singapore's newfound modernity. Originating from Europe, Pictorialism was an art photography movement that became increasingly popular in Singapore, particularly after 1950 when the Singapore Camera Club was formed, attracting huge numbers of amateurs who regularly displayed their work in public exhibitions. Often displaying visual similarities to the 19th century landscapes produced by European photographers of the Far East, particularly in the use of a picturesque aesthetic, these photographs emerged in a very different context. Why, then, did the picturesque landscape remain popular even as anti-colonial sentiments grew within the entire region? In answering this question, this paper will pay close attention to not only the photographs, but the role of the photography clubs and salons as well as the socio-political changes taking place in Singapore at the time.