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Wu Peng Seng

One of Singapore's chief pioneer photographers.

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Published: 12 Oct 2016


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Wu Peng Seng was one of Singapore's chief pioneer photographers. The influential lensman was a prominent member of the Photographic Society of Singapore who received numerous awards and recognition for his art. In 1990, he received the Cultural Medallion for his contributions to photography in Singapore.

Born in 1915 in Shantou, China, Wu Peng Seng received his early education in Hong Kong. His father was an avid photographer, and this rubbed on a teenage Wu who taught himself how to use a camera, and never went anywhere without his camera in tow.

Completing his university education at Guang Hua University in Shanghai, China, Wu went into the import-export business, which would bring him to Southeast Asia. It was in Vietnam in 1947 that he would hold his first solo exhibition of his photographs, and he made his way to Penang, Malaysia the following year, eventually finding himself in Singapore.

In Singapore, Wu decided to pursue his passion for photography seriously. He left his job to venture into professional photography. His received his first official recognition of his photographic skills with a silver medal in the 1st Singapore Open Photo Exhibition in 1950, officially marking the beginning of a illustrious career that would see him receiving international honours and exhibiting his photographs all around the world.

Wu experimented widely with his photography and was always interested in learning new techniques to widen his photography knowledge and vocabulary. Through this, he developed his own style which reflected his relentless pursuit for the perfect shot. He travelled to many locations in different countries throughout his career to capture elusive moments of beauty. From idyllic depictions of Singapore country life, Wu’s pursuit brought him to Nepal, South Africa, Canada and the USA. China would be a major source of inspiration for Wu, whose photographs contained a distinctly oriental flavour. He counted the Silk Road in China as one of his favourite locations to photograph.

Besides the many awards he received at international salons and exhibitions, Wu also gained recognition with many prestigious photography organisations around the world. He was made an associate of the International Federation of Photographic Art in 1957 and a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society in the UK in 1960. Closer to home, Wu was made an honorary member of the Chinese Photographic Association of Hong Kong in 1965 and an honorary fellow of the Photographic Society of Thailand.

Wu also shared his expertise and knowledge with fellow photographers in Singapore, serving as an assistant secretary of the Photographic Society of Singapore in the post-independence years

In 1990, Wu received the Cultural Medallion for his contributions to photography in Singapore. That same year, he was made a honorary life member of the Photographic Society of Singapore.

In 1996, Wu held his final solo exhibition 60 Years in Reminiscence in Singapore, publishing an accompanying book Peng Seng Wu – 60Years in Reminiscence.

Wu passed away in 2006 at the age of 91 in Singapore.

Timeline

1918

Born in Shantou, Guangdong, China.

1946

Moved to Haiphong, Vietnam.

1947

Solo exhibition, Haiphong, Vietnam.

1948

Moved to Penang, Malaysia.

Moved to Singapore.

1950

Received Silver Medal, 1st Singapore Open Photo Exhibition.

Received Golden Trophy, Chinese International Salon, New York, USA.

1952

Published The Camera Man in a photography journal, UK.

1954

Received Bronze Medal, Murray Bridge International Salon, UK.

1955 to 1964

Member, Photographic Society of Singapore.

1956

Received Associateship, Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain.

1957

Received Associateship, International Federation of Photographic Art, Switzerland.

1960

Received Fellowship, Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain.

Received Silver Medal, Newcastle-on-Tyne Salon, UK.

Received Silver Plate, 9th Mexico International Photo Exhibition, Mexico.

Received Bronze Medal, Foto-Cine-Club-De Montpercier Photo Exhibition, France.

1961

Published In Happy Mood in a photography journal, UK.

Work added to permanent collection Seattle Photographic Museum, Seattle, USA.

1962

Received Silver Plate, 9th Mozambique Salon, Mozambique.

Received Bronze Plate, Master Photo Exhibition, Sweden.

Received Silver Medal, Valparaiso International Salon, Chile.

1963

Received Excellence Distinction, International Federation of Photographic Art, Switzerland.

Received Gold Medal, Pictorial Photography Exhibition, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Participated in exhibition, Short Brothers and Harland Photographic Society, Ireland.

1964

Received Silver Plate, World Photo Exhibition, Berlin, Germany.

Received Bronze Medal, 16th Bordeaux International Salon, France.

Published Painting on the Screen in photography journal for the anniversary of the International Federation of Photographic Art, Switzerland.

Work added to permanent collection The World Cup of Photography of FIAP, Switzerland.

1965 to 1972

Assistant Secretary (Chinese), Photographic Society of Singapore.

1965

Received Honorary Excellence FIAP award, International Federation of Photographic Art, Switzerland.

Named Honorary Member, Chinese Photographic Association of Hong Kong.

Participated in Seven Men Photo Exhibition, Singapore.

Participated in Seven Men Photo Exhibition, Bangkok, Thailand.

Published work in photography journal Pictorial Photographic Art by Seven Photographers, Singapore.

1966

Received Silver Plate, Photo Exhibition of Wien, Vienna, Austria.

Received Silver Medal, St. Politen Salon, Poland.

1967

Received Gold Plate, 10th Interfoto Trest, Czechoslovakia.

Published Street Scenery (Colour slides) in photography journal Encyclopaedia of Photography, UK.

1968

Participated in The Annual Conservation of the Photographic Society of New Zealand, New Zealand.

Published Vietnamese Lady, Venus 68 and The Woman in photography magazine Hobby, Germany.

1969

Named in Top Ten Photographers of the World, St. Pölten, Photographic Society, Austria.

Received Gold Plate, Ten World Top Photographers Exhibition, St. Pölten, Austria

Published At Rest in photography journal Osterneichische Photo Zeitung, Austria.

1973

Work added to permanent collection of the Australian Photographic Society.

1975

Received Honorary Fellowship, Photographic Society of Singapore.

1977

Participated in 25 Jahze Foto-Film-Club Bayer Leverkusen, Germany.

1978

Participated in Pictorial Photographic Exhibition, The Chinese Photographic Association, Hong Kong.

1987

Received Honorary Fellowship, Photographic Society of Thailand.

1990

Received Cultural Medallion for contributions to photography in Singapore.

Named Honorary Life Member, Photographic Society of Singapore.

1992

Participated in Distinguished Asean Photographers, Singapore.

1996

Solo exhibition 60 Years in Reminiscence, Singapore. Published accompanying book Peng Seng Wu – 60 Years in Reminiscence, Singapore.

2006

Passed away at age 91 in Singapore.


TributeSG

TributeSG celebrates the arts community’s most senior members, and those who have made a lifetime of contribution to the arts. These artists, administrators, educators, patrons, and champions include many Singapore arts pioneers who laid the foundations of the vibrant arts and cultural scene we enjoy today. The many profiles in TributeSG let us into the minds and worlds of these pioneers, and help us understand our shared arts heritage. When we revisit their works and rediscover their journeys, we learn where we came from and how we came to be. Collectively, their stories tell the tale of the making of a nation’s artistic identity.

In putting together this collection, the TributeSG team consulted an external advisory panel, consisting of Arun Mahiznan, Choo Thiam Siew, J. P. Nathan, K. K. Seet, Kwok Kian Chow, and Iskandar Ismail. Those selected to be profiled in TributeSG met one of the following criteria: they were at least 60 years of age as of 12 Oct 2016, or deceased, or had received national recognition in the form of the Cultural Medallion. This journey of arts archival officially came to a close on 12 Oct 2016, after four years of extensive research, interviews and collation of information graciously provided by the TributeSG pioneers, their families and peers. TributeSG also benefited from enthusiastic help from like-minded friends and organisations who supported Esplanade’s cause—to remember, honour and celebrate Singapore’s arts pioneers.

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