“Photography in Southeast Asia: A Survey” (NUS Press, 2016) | Launch + Discussion

Photography in Southeast Asia: A Survey is a comprehensive attempt to map the emergence and trajectories of photographic practices in Southeast Asia. The narrative begins in the colonial era, at the point when the transfer of photographic technology occurred between visiting practitioners and local photographers. With individual chapters dedicated to the countries of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, The Philippines and Vietnam, the bulk of the book spans the post-WWII era to the contemporary, focusing on practitioners who operate with agency and autonomy. The relationship between art and photography, which has been defined very narrowly over the decades, is re-examined in the process. Photography also offers an entry point into the cultural and social practices of the region, and a prism into the personal desires and creative decisions of its practitioners.

“an innovative approach to a medium that is often not considered an ‘art form’ and is therefore overlooked in surveys of Southeast Asian art history…this original study also offers an insight into the role of images and visuality in shaping Southeast Asian society, culture and politics.”
-Nora Taylor Alsdorf Professor of South and Southeast Asian Art History, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

“An incredible vista of the artistic output and intellectual debates in this culturally rich and diverse but oft-overlooked region, commendable for the writer’s tireless efforts in retracing historic forces and themes and investigating the politics of the image creation shaping Southeast Asian photographers today.”
-Yudhi Soerjoatmodjo Photo Historian

“Informed by years of research in Southeast Asian photography, Wubin’s extensive survey, covering generations of practitioners across 10 countries from Laos to Singapore, extends beyond to offer a glimpse into the region’s colonial and post-colonial histories, politics and social landscapes … (he) also enters rare territory in today’s photography and art writing – criticism, and notably, advocacy and sympathy for the ‘straightness’ of more traditionally motivated and inclined practitioners of photography – outliers, if you will, to whom contemporary art establishment have more often than not, been antagonistic towards.”
-Kevin Lee, Invisible Photographer Asia

Publication Year: 2016
524 pages, 235mm x 187mm
ISBN: 978-981-4722-12-4 Casebound
212 photographs


Related launch events

13 Oct 2016
Objectifs Singapore

Launch of “Photography in Southeast Asia: A Survey”

For the launch, Zhuang Wubin, author of the book, will moderate a short exchange with famed street photographer, Chia Aik Beng, to better understand how the digitisation of photography has shaped his work. Aik Beng will also share his observations on how this development has impacted Singapore photography. This session will end with an open-floor Q&A between the speakers and the audience.

3 Nov 2016
Lostgens’ Contemporary Art Space
(8c, Jln Panggung, 3rd floor, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

Launch of “Photography in Southeast Asia: A Survey” + Discussion with art historian Simon Soon

In conjunction with the book launch, there will be a conversation between Zhuang Wubin and art historian Simon Soon about photographic practices and cultures across Southeast Asia.

Co-hosted by Visual Art Department, Cultural Centre, University of Malaya

8 Dec 2016
Book Discussion
Bandung Photography Book Show 2016, part of Bandung Photography Month 2016
(SPASIAL, Jl. Gudang Selatan, Bandung)



13 Oct 2016 / The Singapore launch of “Photography in Southeast Asia: A Survey” (NUS Press, 2016) takes place at Objectifs. / Courtesy Ox Lee


13 Oct 2016 / The event opens with a moderated discussion with Instagrammer Chia Aik Beng, looking at the impact of digitisation on his career as a photographer and its impact on local photographic practices. A lively Q&A follows after the discussion. The launch ends with a book signing session. / Courtesy Ox Lee


13 Oct 2016 / I wish to thank NUS Press for organising this event and for everyone who turned up in support. I will like to dedicate this book to fellow writers who are trying to carve an autonomous space to function within the photographic and artistic ecologies in Southeast Asia. / Courtesy Ox Lee


3 Nov 2016 / The KL launch of my recently published book, “Photography in Southeast Asia: A Survey” (NUS Press, 2016), is hosted by Lostgens’ Contemporary Art Space. The event featured a moderated discussion with art historian Simon Soon, before taking questions from the audience. The event ended with a book signing session. / Photographs courtesy Scott Chung
3 Nov 2016 / Around 60 people, including old friends from the fields of photography, filmmaking, visual arts and literature, turned up for the event. / Photographs courtesy Scott Chung


3 Nov 2016 / Bruneian photogarapher Barri S (right), who recently relocated to KL for work, also joined us for the occasion. His work is featured in the book. / Photographs courtesy Scott Chung


8 Dec 2016 / As part of the Bandung Photography Book Show 2016, I have been invited to speak about my recently published “Photography in Southeast Asia: A Survey” (NUS Press, 2016). This is an event of the Bandung Photography Month 2016, hosted by the Faculty of Science, Art and Literature at Pasundan University. / Image courtesy Sari Asih
8 Dec 2016 / The audience who attended my session include students, enthusiasts and members of the general public in Bandung. The sale of “Photography in Southeast Asia: A Survey” is supported by online store Unobtainium at this event. / Image courtesy Sari Asih


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