From July to October 2012, I have taught a module for the 3rd-year diploma students majoring in Photography at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), Singapore.
Prior to that, I have never foreseen myself teaching a studio-based course. But I have been given the freedom to develop the module based on my research. The possibility is hard to turn down.
How then do we teach contemporary photography in a way that is relevant for practitioners in Singapore and Southeast Asia?
In the end, I decided to design the module as a series of sessions for students, tutor and guest speakers to discuss issues and approaches pertaining to contemporary photography, especially within Southeast Asia.
By examining the possibilities and limitations of photography, the module encourages the students to explore different methodologies in relation to the medium. It informs them about the themes and issues addressed by artists working with photography in Southeast Asia. It also encourages them to think of the materiality and “social life” of photography.
In the first few sessions, I offered a timeline of photographic practices in Southeast Asia.
Here are highlights from the other sessions.
Tay Kay Chin (light blue jeans) and Edwin Koo (foreground), two former Straits Times (ST) photographers, talk about the need to “unlearn” what they learnt in ST when both of them left the paper. They also discuss the notion of “truth” in documentary photography. And they answer the questions of how they make a living as documentary photographers in Singapore.
Chua Chye Teck reminds my students of the importance of being slow, patient and comfortable in their photographic practices. He explains the basis of his work, which is to use the photographs that he takes to analyse his interests, thoughts and obsessions.
Nurul Huda brings us to the NUS Museum for her exhibition, The Sufi and the Bearded Man: Re-membering a Keramat in Contemporary Singapore, and explains the potential of photography as a visual research tool.