Convergence – Wei Leng TayPosted: July 13, 2013
First of all, this is a beautiful and very quiet book. The simplicity of the cover makes us want to discover it. A red linen cover with a tipped in photo of an old B&W portrait of her grand aunt. Here starts the investigation. We are going to dive in a family story. In fact this is Wei Leng’s story. She was born in Singapore after her family moved from Malaysia, and years before from China. What she shows us here is a kind of selfportrait in the thickness of the time. It is something very difficult to understand for me as an European, I have to admit that the Far East is, for me, very similar whatever country we are talking about. But in fact, she will slowly explain us that there are many cultural differences that remain attached to where you are from. This is what she explores through this collection of photographs : What it means to be Chinese in Singapore.
The pages alternate with portraits, open spaces or still life pictures.
We start back in time, or to better say with photos of elderly people, like the metaphor, in the first picture, of so many clocks on the top of a bed, witnessing the passing of time. The portraits are really soft and full of tenderness. People remain very quiet and are never staring at the camera. We don’t feel like intruders despite this lack of attention from the one portraited but rather like a friend visiting, who silently wait to catch the attention of the person. We don’t want to disturb. We just look at the time passing with each little change from a generation to another. She selected among many, people originated from China, living in Singapore. Each story becomes Wei Leng’s story. Sometimes, we take part to a family scene with two, three or more participants having dinner together, watching TV or playing with kids. These are ordinary scenes of the daily life, like the ones we all know at home filled by our own cultural background and this is probably the reason why we understand so well those photographs. All over the world, we sit together for dinner or to watch TV and everybody plays with his kids… All the portraits are shot in natural light from a similar distance which is just the one to remain distant and shows the occupant fairly concentrated on their duty. This is how we perceive the slight tension outcropping from the multicultural society, some decoration on a wall, an object on a shelf. All those little details that give the strenght and the thickness of a pictures. We also perceive the changing of habits with the different generations. The surroundings are not the same for the grand parents, the young parents with kids or for the teenagers. This is the changing of the modern society with the loss of traditions.
Sometimes, we focus on details, in still life photographs. Even if they seem beautifully arranged, they all return us questions about the owner of the place, like the one already mentionned, of the top of the bed full of clocks, or when we discover a collection of old photos about which we could start a discussion about family remained abroad or kids that emigrated. On the opposite, we discover a teenager in his room, surrounded by modern objects that seem to come out from globalization market (computer or pieces of furniture) or a young couple sitting beside a tree, which could be in a urban park, like in every city in the world.
The organisation of the book itself, strengthens this evolution, starting with elderly persons and ending with a young one sitting on his bed with an Apple laptop or a young woman, outside at night, enlightened by the lights of a BMW car which refers strongly to the western way of life.
The last part of the book comes as a complement. These are transcripted interviews in a natural way of speaking, that were conducted between 2009 and 2010 by Wei Leng Tay amongst the Chinese people portraited. Some are very nostalgic but some are also very funny like talking about KFC for a family reunion dinner.
This is a beautiful book that may resonate in me because I am coming from Bretagne in the West part of France, and my grandmother spoke and understood the native language, my father understand it but don’t speak it, and I neither speak nor understand it. All over the world the capitalism drives us to a globalized world. We buy food at KFC or McDo, we buy clothes at H&M or GAP and buy furnitures at IKEA. This book definetely says more than a simple personal story, it says about globalization.
Published in 2013
Print run : 500
More info : http://www.convergence-wlt.com/