Next month, the the photographer Nguan’s series “Singapore,” which his followers on Instagram, Tumblr, and Facebook are by now familiar with, will be released as a book, in an edition of 1000, by the publisher Maybe Hotel. “Singapore” takes us across Nguan’s native city, to the outdoor walkways of colorful residential high-rises and into other enclaves to observe unexpected moments of respite. The color and soft tone in these images is luring: each photograph emits a unique pastel glow. But it is the photographer’s eye for subtle tensions between the city’s residents and its built environment that holds our attention. He does not overlook complex interactions with place in order to form his dreamy vision, and the series is all the more enchanting for being firmly tethered to Singapore’s particularities.
We see lots of people resting and sitting: a grown man laying back on the slide of a playground; a young woman with her knees pulled to her chest, sitting outside of what looks like a commercial building; two children holding badminton rackets, their flip flops kicked off onto the cement in front of them. “Singapore” shows us an urban setting at a resting heart rate. Even the most active moments—children burning colorful papers, a man carrying a mattress pad down a city street—look lethargic under the soft spell of Nguan’s film.
Some of the more painterly images in the series do not have human subjects. There are mops, rubber gloves, and a mix of clothes, hung and propped in an arrangement that appears ready to take on a life of its own. Other photographs depicting demolition are woven together with shots showing signs of construction and repair. Indicators of how the city evolves develop Singapore into a character, albeit a quiet one, capable of moving, hushing, and interacting with the residents we see milling and resting among its distinctive structure.
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