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ABBAS – 45 years in photography Exhibition

I spent the morning with a friend browsing through the photographs on display at the ABBAS – 45 years in photography exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore.  According to the short blurb about Abbas on the Magnum Photography website:

An Iranian transplanted to Paris, Abbas first dedicated his work to document the political and social life of societies in conflict such as Biafra, Vietnam, South Africa under apartheid and the Revolution in Iran.  He then undertook a series of major essays on Islam, Christianity and Paganism, each one spanning many years.  He is presently examining how religion – which he defines as culture than faith – is replacing political ideology as the driving force behind international conflict.


The exhibition and photographer statement:

For almost 45 years I have roamed the world, in search of images of upheaval; initially political and social, then later, religious.  Retrospectives are best done when the photographer is no longer around – there will be no surprises then.  Or so I thought until the National Museum of Singapore suggested I have one.  As I am still roaming the world, let’s just consider this retrospective, with some humility (who knows how many more years I shall road?), ‘The First 45 Years’.

My photography is a reflection which comes to life in action and leads to meditation.  Spontaneity – the suspended moment – intervenes during action, in the viewfinder. A reflection on the subject that precedes it.  A meditation on finality follows it, and it is here, during this exalting and fragile moment, that the real photographic writing develops, sequencing the images.  For this reason a writer’s spirit is necessary to this enterprise.  Isn’t photo-graphy ‘writing with light’?  But with the difference that while the writer possesses his word, the photographer is himself possessed by his photo, by the limit of the real which he must transcend so as not to become its prisoner.  ~ Abbas

The exhibition presents a broad overview of Abbas’ work with photos taken all over the world (e.g. Egypt, Japan, South Africa, Iran, Mexico, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, South Korea, Myanmar, and many more countries).  The images, all black and white are powerful on their own and many are snippets of history in the making.  Whether the images show the revolution in Iran, his study of the resurgence of Islam, or his current focus of Buddhism, Abbas’ photographs come through as real moments with real people . . . real life.


I highly recommend the exhibition to everyone interested in photography and history.  At just S$5 for admission, there’s no excuse not to go.  The only negative thing I can say about the exhibition is that the lighting is horrible.  Ridiculously dark and not at all suitable for viewing the photographs on the wall.  The exhibition is on at the National Museum of Singapore from 18 June to 18 September 2011, 10am to 6pm daily.  Details at the following link: http://www.nationalmuseum.sg/ExhibitionDetail.aspx?id=55&cat=2.