Lightbox Photo Library in Taiwan has joined forces with Singaporean photography researcher Zhuang Wubin to map the latitude of photo publications in South East Asia. A total of 50 photographic publications were included in the first phase of the study. With the contribution and assistance of researchers from Taiwan and Southeast Asia, the project aims to establish a chronology of Southeast Asian photo publications.
Based on Photography in Southeast Asia: A Survey (published by NUS Press Singapore in 2016; Chinese translation published by Taiwan’s Voices of Photography Books in 2019) and An Overview of Southeast Asian Photography Publications after World War II (2019), this project compiles a selection of 50 key publications concerning the region that would become Southeast Asia. Visits were made to independent and national libraries and the project collaborated with various researchers, translators, and editors to write notes, carry out translation, and reproduce records regarding these printed works.
The scope of the research focuses on post-World War II publications, but also includes important pre-World War II photography publications discovered during the research process. The books cover major historical events that influenced the development of governments and civil societies across Southeast Asia. These include the Vietnam War in the 1960s, the Thai popular uprising (“Day of Great Sorrow”) in 1973 when the Thai dictatorship suppressed pro-democracy activists, the anti-government New People’s Army in the Philippines in the 1980s, the de-stigmatization of AIDS and sex workers and relevant public education in the 1990s, the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami in Aceh, Indonesia in 2004, the stricken landscape before and after the eruptions of Mount Merapi in Indonesia in 2011, and the various protests by social activists and photojournalists after the military coup in Myanmar in 2021. Meanwhile, the indigenous peoples, religious beliefs, photographic creation, and photographic culture of Southeast Asia, as well as photography magazines and pictorials, are also part of the discussion. In terms of book selection strategy, the project tries to break away from the previous photographer- or author-centered way of thinking and shift the focus to the stakeholders and collaborators of photography books, or to think even from a non-human point of view.
Founded in 2016, the Lightbox Photo Library is a non-profit photography library based in Taiwan that is open to all. With its dedication to preserving, sharing, and advancing photographic perspectives and creative practices, the Lightbox strives for the values of intellectual freedom, cultural equity and resource sharing through various kinds of public programs and educational projects, with an aim to co-create a photographic culture.
A Singaporean photography researcher, curator, and artist, as well as a member of the editorial board of the photo critique journal Trans-Asia Photography Review, Zhuang Wubin has received several international research grants and participated in research residency projects. He has long been concerned with photography practices in Southeast Asia and the relationship between photography, nationalism, and the Cold War. The Chinese translation of his book Photography in Southeast Asia: A Survey, published in 2019, is an important work for understanding the development of Southeast Asian photography.