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October, 2013 Monthly archive

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Kevin WY Lee is a photographer and creative director based in Singapore. He has worked as a creative professional and photographer in Australia and Singapore for over 15 years. In 2010, he founded Invisible Photographer Asia (IPA), an organisation which has grown to become a leading influential platform for photography and visual arts
in Asia.

In addition to personal photography and commissions, Kevin also produces events and workshops across Asia, including the IPA Photography Workshops, IPA Photo Books Show and IPA Awards. Kevin is also a nominator for the Prix Pictet, a global award for photography and sustainability, and the 6th Photo China Original International Photographic Exhibition in Guizhou, China. He has also served on the jury for other programmes and competitions, including the Singapore Creative Circle Awards, Hong Kong Photo Book Awards, Angkor Photo Workshop and Kuala Lumpur International Photoawards.

Kevin was born in Fiji and is a design graduate of the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, Australia.

www.kevinwylee.com

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Kevin_Lee.jpgYou are known fondly for being an advocate of street photography and you’re well-versed in it. However, in Bay of Dreams, your images are a stark contrast to what we are familiar with seeing from you. Are we seeing another side to you that we haven’t seen before?

People who really know me know that I don’t really talk much or express myself all that well in words. My father is the same – quiet. I don’t like confrontations too. So making pictures is great. To me, street photography is simply putting on your shoes and going out with a camera to collect haikus – short poems and reflections about daily life.

For me, form follows function. There are some who believe they should have a strong visual signature. I hope my signature is in my interests and my point of view, not the style. I don’t know if people will connect with these images, but for this series, the images and how they look and feel are important to me and appropriate.

Most of us know you as the founder of Invisible Photographer Asia, but few of us know when and how you got into photography. Tell us a little bit about your journey.

I was born in Fiji and grew up there. I didn’t have any visual education when I was young, to be honest. We didn’t have TVs, there wasn’t much mass media as such, and my friends and I were more interested in running around barefoot, playing soccer under the sun.

I came late to photography. I graduated from the College of Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales in Australia, and I’ve been working in the creative industry for over 15 years now. As an art director, I had always worked with photographers, but I never thought of picking up a camera myself till much later.

Before I did, I even tried making a feature film, and failed miserably. The process drained me mentally and physically, it became more of a commercial pursuit rather than a creative one. I wasted a few years but learnt a lot.

I took a rest, then picked up a camera one day and felt liberated that I could express myself creatively, without the burdens I had previously experienced.


In your introduction, you mentioned that your parents “spend their days now waiting for me to come home from work with good news.” What types of good news do you think they are expecting?

My parents come from a humble village of rice farmers, so a good harvest is good news.


A good harvest? I am sure you are not farming in Singapore. So what kind of harvest are you cultivating in Singapore?

A good harvest means you are rewarded for your toil and labour. For some, it is as simple as having a good supply of bread on the table and a permanent roof over your head.

Coincidently, Aung San Suu Kyi made her first-ever visit to Singapore the other day. During her press conference, she posed some questions that I found inspiring: “What are human beings for? What are human lives about? What is the purpose of work, of material wealth? Is that the ultimate aim of human beings, is that what we all want?”

FYI, my mother is still waiting for that big house I promised her when I was just a young, barefoot kid in Fiji.

Your parents are from China, they relocated to Fiji and you were born there. What made you choose Singapore to be your home? What is it about this country that has made you feel deeply?

My elder sister migrated here first and started her family. She told me the grass was green here. So I came, and I’ve been here ever since. Home and country are about people. I’ve met some great people in Singapore and they’ve become part of my life. Moreover, my parents are now here with me and they are Singaporeans too.

A lot of young, aspiring photographers look up to you as a voice for photography in Asia. What is your message to them?

I don’t know if I am but … Life is short, really. Chase your dreams. Don’t worry if they get broken, because they might. But life is short.

I’m pretty sure you have been asked this a lot of times, but for the benefit of those who are new to your works, why did you name yourself Ox?

Ox is a nickname. I was born in the year of the ox (according to the Chinese zodiac) and I’m damn stubborn. A fortune teller once told my mum that while others choose to ride a horse to their destination, I choose to walk. Damn stubborn.
 

 

The portrait of Kevin WY Lee was drawn by Flee Circus; and Leonard Goh, who will anchor all the interviews in this series, is a co-founder of Platform.

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Whose Dreams Are These I Dream?

My parents come from a small, poor village of rice farmers in Kaiping, China. They left when they were young and strong, to chase their dreams of a brighter, better future. It was something all young villagers hoped to do. They called it looking for “gold mountains abroad”.

They finally settled in Fiji, a small, idyllic Pacific island, where I was born and where they spent the rest of their working lives. And they worked very hard. My parents were simple folks with a simple dream – to have a family and to ensure that everyone had a brighter, better future.

I remember one day when I was a kid, I told my mother that when I grew up, I’d buy her a big house to live in.

We have since settled in Singapore, which has been our home for the past few years. My parents are retired and worn from their journey in life. They spend their days now waiting for me to come home from work with good news.

My mother fell ill recently. When I visited her at the hospital, she said, “If I pass, all that I worry for is you.”

Bay of Dreams is a collection of photographs taken at the Marina Bay area of Singapore. It’s a short walk away from where I work. I was probably drawn to the bay’s dazzle and theatre. Singapore is a nation of dreams and dream-chasers, and the bay area is where it’s all on display for the world to see.

We are all seduced by our dreams. My parents are, as am I. Likewise, the nation and its people.

We all imagine and yearn for a future for ourselves. We map our journeys and spend our entire lives chasing that which we imagine.

Our dreams consume us when we sleep, and when we walk. Like a mirage, they seem near, yet so
strangely far away.

Often, in the endless pursuit of our dreams, we forget that we also steal the dreams of others along
the way. These images represent dreams – mine, yours, ours and theirs – real, or maybe imagined.

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Bay Of Dreams

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