Photography in Southeast Asia: A Survey

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By Zhuang Wubin


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

"...currently the most comprehensive in its documentation and an important springboard to further the conversation about the medium here."
Tan Lee Kuen, The Star

"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

You can read up about the launch of Photography in Southeast Asia in Singapore on October 13, 2016 on Invisible Photographer Asia and the NUS Press blog.

Zhuang Wubin is a writer, curator and artist. As a writer, Zhuang focuses on the photographic practices in Southeast Asia. A 2010 recipient of the research grant from Prince Claus Fund (Amsterdam), Zhuang is an editorial board member of Trans-Asia Photography Review, a journal published by the Hampshire College and the University of Michigan Scholarly Publication Office.


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



NUS Press