1854 Awards

OpenWalls Arles 2020: “Photographing daily life is the purest challenge for a photographer”

From the series "Singapore" © Nguan

Nguan’s photographs celebrate life’s fleeting moments

We are expanding the exhibition space for OpenWalls Arles 2020. As part of this second open call, we are highlighting photographers whose work relates to the theme: Daily Life. Calls open on Tuesday 10 September 2019 at 2pm (UK time).

“In 2001, I was living in New York and staying less than a mile from the World Trade Center,” says Nguan. “I looked up at the Twin Towers every day from my street.” Nguan has spent his career making work across the globe: from Coney Island to his home city of Singapore. The photographer’s work is distinct. Each image employs the same pastel colour palette, which Nguan achieves by only ever photographing during the final two hours of daylight.  They are not the kind of photographs that come to mind when thinking of a catastrophe like 9/11, but each still was taken in response to it. 

From the series “Singapore” © Nguan

“On 9/11, I did not hear the news of the first plane hitting the North Tower at 8:46am, or watch both towers fall shortly after, because I went to bed at 6am,” says Nguan. “When I got up at 11:30am the towers were gone.” Nguan’s simultaneous proximity and distance from 9/11 has informed his work ever since. “Even today, I make pictures with the assumption that everything in front of my camera will no longer be there in the morning.”

Nguan’s response to this collective trauma has also contributed to the way he exhibits his work– his photography is immensely popular on Instagram, and he has garnered 261,000 followers, all drawn to his dreamy presentations of the everyday. 

From the series “Singapore” © Nguan

“I’m convinced that viewers are now responding to photography in a different way,” he says, “It’s one thing to experience art in a gallery when we’re prepared for it, and quite another to have an image pop up on our feeds when we’re lying in bed.” Nguan theorises that showing photographs in this way imbuest hem with additional meaning. “I think we’re now more likely to develop the same intense emotional relationships with images that we might have with songs,” he says. 

Nguan’s optimistic outlook drives his commitment to capture life’s fleeting moments, and to give them meaning. “Photographing daily life is the purest challenge for a photographer,” he says, “to try and wrestle meaning from randomness, to see patterns where there are none.” Each of his photographs is a celebration of a moment, easily unobserved, now passed. “The most mundane scenes in real life can be made to appear monumental in a photograph,” he says. By capturing them, Nguan breathes life into these moments, and exhibits them on social media so they can be enjoyed by all. 

Don’t miss out on your second chance to exhibit your work during Les Rencontres d’Arles 2020. Stay tuned for more information.

nguan.tv

From the series “Singapore” © Nguan
From the series “Singapore” © Nguan
From the series “Singapore” © Nguan
From the series “Singapore” © Nguan
From the series “Singapore” © Nguan
From the series “Singapore” © Nguan
From the series “Singapore” © Nguan
From the series “Singapore” © Nguan
From the series “Singapore” © Nguan
From the series “Singapore” © Nguan
From the series “Singapore” © Nguan
From the series “Singapore” © Nguan
From the series “Singapore” © Nguan
From the series “Singapore” © Nguan

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