Series of 50 photographs
Exhibited at DECK, Singapore (2015), Chan+Hori Contemporary, Singapore (2018), Addis Foto Fest, Ethiopia (2018)
Published by Math Paper Press (2017)
Finalist for Invisible Photographer Asia Award 2018 (Photobook)
Shortlist for 212 Photography Competition 2019
Yesteryears captures 50 abandoned and forgotten places in Singapore through a series of in situ self-portraits. The buildings photographed are in different states of ruination, from the crumbling roofs of Istana Woodneuk to the soon-to-be demolished Rochor Centre. These buildings represent the modern ruins of post independence Singapore, an era that lives not only with progress but also the fleeting ruins left in its wake. In a city that is ever modernizing and growing, there is barely any room for the ruin. Buildings that are deemed obsolete will be torn down to make way for something bigger and better. But in the face of the storm called progress, as German philosopher Walter Benjamin expounded in 'Thesis on the Philosophy of History', it is important to retain our historical consciousness.
Yesteryears does this not through monuments, or officially sanctioned heritage spaces, but through the more minor, often forgotten ruins created by an ever-changing Singapore. The series was taken when Singapore celebrated 50 years of independence, and there was an increasing wave of nostalgia across the nation. Places are vessels of memories for the people; places are where relationships are forged, stories are created, history is made. From hidden palaces to crumbling neighbourhoods, these places are long past its halcyon days as they descend into mere brick and mortar.
Keywords: development, forgotten, history, in situ, memory, places, ruins.
“It is all too common these days to see millennials taking selfies at heritage sites on the cusp of ruin. Photographer Sean Cham, however, has elevated the heritage selfie to an art.” - Olivia Ho, The Straits Times
“The resulting self-portraits are a curious blend of photography and theatre, with Sean’s knack for crafting dramatic scenes complimenting his skill with a camera.” - Uday Duggal, Mothership