On the Silk Road, hand-printed photographs by Kheng-Li Wee



21 – 30 March 2005

The Fullerton Hotel 1 Fullerton Square #01-10 Singapore 049178

Kheng-Li Wee. Born 1971 Singapore. He was a member of the pioneer year, Art Elective Programme, The Chinese High School, Singapore. Studied Asian Studies and Fine Art at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania, USA and photography at the highly selective Full-Time Programme at the International Center of Photography, New York, USA. He has held solo exhibitions in Singapore and has participated in group exhibitions in New York and Singapore. His works are in the collections of the International Center of Photography, New York, and the European House of Photography, Paris, as well as in numerous private collections in the USA and Singapore. He teaches photography at Temasek Polytechnic, Singapore and is currently a freelance fine art and documentary photographer based in Singapore.


Landscape, Travel and the Sublime

Impressions which remain in my memory of the Silk Road:

the bitter cold of the Tian Shan mountains
once-great trading cities now in ruins
the yellow sand and black gravel dunes of the Taklamakan and Gobi deserts
remnants of great Buddhist cave temples
the echoes of a temple bell amidst the mist-shrouded limestone gorges of the Upper Yellow River
sharp contrasts between the deserts and the oases
the unchanging agrarian lives of many of the inhabitants
modern highways and railways joining drab industrial cities
the ubiquity of modern travel in the form of hotels and tourists
the richness and dynamism of the cultures which still flourish along this ancient route.
Most of all, the unique quality of the light along the Silk Road – sometimes sharp and clear, other times aglow with motes of dust, but always low angled, etching long shadows along the ground.

In approaching the wide expanses of the Silk Road photographically, it seemed particularly appropriate to employ the panoramic camera format, which captures a frame 1.5 times the width of a conventional 35mm camera frame. It was a particular challenge for me to adapt my “eye” to “seeing” in this way.

I chose to shoot only in black and white and to print all my images by hand as silver gelatin prints because I feel that there is a certain timeless quality and mystery about the landscapes and peoples along the Silk Road which could best be captured without the distraction of colour. Additionally, there is a textural quality and sense of depth possibly in a silver print which gives it a special beauty.  I print all my own silver gelatin prints and take pride and joy in the handcrafting of a print in the wet darkroom, particularly in this increasingly digital age.

All the photographs in this exhibition were made on a Hasselblad Xpan camera, with a 45mm f4 lens, on Ilford FP4 film. I wish to thank Helen Lim and Shriro Singapore, for their support.

Kheng-Li Wee

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