Kathy Anne Lim (b.1991) is a photographer & visual artist with roots along the eastern shores of Singapore. Her poetic documentary work focuses on themes of memory, technology and displacement—contents of which mix absolute certainty and misty ephemerality. She studied Visual Communication (Dip) at Temasek Polytechnic Singapore and Photography (BA Hons) at London College of Communication, University of Arts London. Her work has been exhibited and published in Singapore, North America, United Kingdom and Italy. She also works as a freelance researcher, photo editor & content producer working previously for The Guardian & Bookmark Content.
RPS WIP: How long have you been photographing?
KAL: As a teen I began photographing for my school newspaper. This was formative of my first experience into publishing and led me to pursue a Diploma in Visual Communications followed by BA in Photography at London College of Communication. In terms of working in photography through various forms such as through commissions, working for different companies through photo editing, photo research or content production - its been about 10 years. It hasn’t been a straightforward path, but every role has been formative to my personal practice and visual literacy.
RPS WIP: How has the past year been for you and your practice?
KAL: Moving back to Singapore in the early part of 2020 from London, it was exciting to create new work and rediscover the city as there were several projects I had been marinating on which are based here in Singapore. ‘White Noise’ for example was shown at the Singapore International Photography Festival 2020.
The project was awarded the Women Photograph Grant 2021. As the series is based on human impacts on the environment, a single image from ‘White Noise’ was selected as part of Decade of Change 2020, a global environmental initiative conceived to harness the universal power of photography to galvanise climate action. The award culminated in an international photography exhibition to Jockey Club Museum of Climate Change, Hong Kong from June - November 2021 and at The Nest Summit in New York in September 2021. The lockdown, has given me the time to be able to reflect on my practice, research and to work on constructing new images - as a visual artist, creativity doesn’t cease due to physical limitations.
RPS WIP: Can you tell us a little about your practice?
My conceptual documentary work focuses on themes of technology and displacement. Projects often start with a considered approach of research, referencing literature and wrestling with the concept. It often takes a duration of time to articulate a complex photographic narrative. But once this has been shaped, and I raise the camera to take a photograph, the shooting process itself is more fluid and serendipitous. Working with photographic film is how I can most easily see colours and define volumes of light, there are chemical crossovers through development and a sense of time you get from film exposures - I quite like to preserve the calculated experimental aspect of taking a photograph.
I try to encourage the viewers to think about their position in relation to the world, to create a signalling or communication with the viewer instead of dictating the narrative; imposing my ideas in a quiet way on a surface - developing something which would have to do with their own emotions or feelings.
RPS WIP: What inspires your work?
KAL: For me, there are multiple entry points to being inspired to create work; The pivotal question for me remains in seeing how far the envelope can be pushed within the photographic medium; such as chasing a visualisation of a feeling or emotion and seeing how to best represent that within the imagery. Too, in turn, mirror and disrupt our expectations on the complexity and continuity of human nature. That being said - there are no dreams which come true without obsession. Sustaining and nurturing that objective obsession is often more crucial than the initial spark of inspiration.
RPS WIP: Where is your favourite place or favourite thing to photograph?
KAL: Stories that have not been seen before, or of a quotidian subject matter, thinking about how something can be seen in a different light, which toes the line between fact and fiction. In ‘White Noise’ the images are focused on fumigations which are commonplace in Singapore, a city set on the equator with a high population density. The country faces concerns with diseases transmittable by insects such as Dengue and Malaria, using chemicals to keep them under control. This antagonism between the ominous clouds presence, and its departure within a commonplace habitat, is what creates an intrigue for me.
RPS WIP: Who is your favourite female photographer and why?
KAL: There are several female photographers who have been inspirational to my practice in different ways, such as the visual tonality of Jo Metson Scott’s images, the intimate fragility of Diane Arbus’s eye, the playful and imaginative approach of Cristina de Middel, the journalistic sensitivities of Sim Chi Yin, the critical poeticism of Esther Teichmann and the vernacular serenity of Rinko Kawauchi. I would certainly be hard pressed to pick just one.
RPS WIP: Any words of advice for female photographers starting out?
KAL: Get regular sleep, eat your vitamins (especially during this time of uncertainty). Put your health first and foremost, and follow your intuitive, inner artistic voice.
RPS WIP: Where can we see your work?
KAL: ’White Noise’ is currently being presented in a group show as part of Vantage Point Sharjah 9 at Sharjah Art Foundation UAE until 18 December 2021. The project will be part of an upcoming publication project 'When Nothing Happens: Reframing the Everyday’ initiated by H55, supported by Singapore National Arts Council slated to be published in 2022.
RPS WIP: What’s next for you?
KAL: I have been experimenting with moving image and working with found images as the next foray into developing projects. Currently, I am working on a pictorial survey of the Southeast Asian migratory landscape based off of my family archive. As the granddaughter of two multi cultural ethnicities, it acts as both a geographical study and an inquiry into ancestry.