Chua Soo Bin



Chua Soo Bin 蔡斯民 (b. 1932, Singapore–) is a photographer who has received accolades for his work in advertising and fashion photography, in particular for his 1980s photographic documentation of the lives of important Chinese ink painters.1 He is also a well-respected gallerist in Asia, and has exhibited the works of key members of the Chinese avant-garde movement of the 1980s, as well as numerous other important Asian artists.2

Early life
Chua was born in Singapore in 1932 to humble beginnings.3 He received primary education at the now defunct Chong Zhen Primary School, but his education there was disrupted by World War II.4 After the war in 1950, he took up weekend art classes at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, studying under Singapore’s pioneer modern artist Cheong Soo Pieng.5 He worked as a lithography apprentice in a printing firm before moving on to a number of advertising firms in Singapore.6 His interest in photography developed in the early 1950s when he took photographs as a hobby.7


Accomplishments
Through the 1950s, Chua was an active member of the Singapore Camera Club, later known as the Photographic Society of Singapore, organising exhibitions and judging at various open-call competitions.8 He was the youngest photographer to earn the associateship of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain (A.R.P.S.) in 1955.9


In the 1960s, Chua began to take on commercial photography assignments even as he continued working in advertising firms as an art director.10 By the 1970s, he had set up his own photographic studio, taking commissions from leading advertising companies.11 His clients included both local and international companies, such as Singapore Airlines and Lanvin.12 Some of the most enduring images of the Singapore Girl were taken by him in the 1980s.13

When Chua took on a commercial photographic assignment in China in 1984, he noticed a dearth of pictorial documentation of Chinese artists.14 He then embarked on a self-funded project to photograph them, with assistance from artists, Li Xingjian and Huang Miaozi, who helped in the selection of and introduction to Chinese ink artists. This project took him four years to complete and brought him to China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and New York.15 During this period, he researched and travelled to meet and photograph 14 established Chinese ink painters, including Li Keran, Zhu Qizhan and Tang Yun. The photographs were compiled with notes on the artists and culminated in Liuzhen: Portraits of Excellence, Fourteen Contemporary Chinese Painters, a critically-acclaimed landmark photographic publication on modern Chinese ink painters.16

In 1989, soon after the publication of Liuzhen, Chua was awarded the 1988 Cultural Medallion (Photography) by the Singapore government.17 70 photographs from the series were donated to the National Museum in 1989.18 Subsequently, between 2013 and 2014, 84 photographs from the series were donated to the National Gallery Singapore.19

In 1990, Chua founded Soo Bin Art Gallery, known today as Singapore SooBin Art Int’l.20 The gallery was one of the first in Singapore that showcased emerging avant-garde Chinese artists such as Zhang Xiaogang, Wang Guangyi, Yue Minjun, Liu Wei and Zhou Chunya.21 It also mounted exhibitions of modern ink painters Wu Guanzhong and Chen Wen Hsi.22

A leading gallerist in Asia, Chua was the president of the Singapore Gallery Association. He also guided the first instalments of the art fair, ART Singapore, from 2000 to 2002 as its fair director.23

Exhibitions
1955:
Singapore Camera Club: Third Pan-Malayan Photographic Exhibition, Singapore / 4th Pan-Malayan Photographic Exhibition, Singapore / London Salon of Photography, United Kingdom.24

1956: VII Internationale Photo-Austtellung, Austria.25
1957: 8th Singapore International Salon, Singapore / 5th Pan-Malayan Photographic Exhibition, Singapore.26
1960: 8th Pan-Malayan Photographic Exhibition, Singapore.27
1989: Liuzhen: Portraits of Excellence, Fourteen Contemporary Chinese Painters, Singapore.28
1996: First Sight: Contemporary Fine Art in Singapore, Singapore.29
2015: To Measure The Depth Of The Ocean, Singapore.30

Awards
1955:
Associate of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain (A.R.P.S.) / Silver medal, Singapore Camera Club: Third Pan-Malayan Photographic Exhibition, Singapore.31

1956: Gold and Silver medals, 4th Pan-Malayan Photographic Exhibition, Singapore.32
1957: Honour print, 8th Singapore International Salon, Singapore.33
1960: Silver medal, 8th Pan-Malayan Photographic Exhibition.34
1965: 1964 Photographic Society of Singapore (PSS) Service Star, Singapore.35
1967: PSS Service Awards, Gold award, Singapore.36
1988: Cultural Medallion (Photography), Singapore.37

Family38
Wife:
Liew Choo Hsien. 

Sons: Chua Cher Wei, Chua Cher Tzien, Chua Cher Him.



Author

Wang Zineng




References
1. Power of ten – Chua Soo Bin: An artist’s artist. (2009, October). 《早报·报志》 [ZbBZ], (1), 15. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 059.951 ZBBZ); Tan, B. H. (1989, January 30). A journey to excellence. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Nayar, P. (2007, February 2). Vincent Leow goes to Venice Biennale. The Business Times, p. 29. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Power of ten – Chua Soo Bin: An artist’s artist. (2009, October). 《早报·报志》 [ZbBZ], (1), 15. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 059.951 ZBBZ)
3. Chua, S. B. (2006). Legends: Soo Bin’s portraits of Chinese ink masters. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, p. 274. (Call no.: RCLOS 759.951 CHU); Huang, L. (2013, May 13). A good eye for art. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Huang, L. (2013, May 13). A good eye for art. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Chua, S. B. (2006). Legends: Soo Bin’s portraits of Chinese ink masters. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, p. 274. (Call no.: RCLOS 759.951 CHU); Huang, L. (2013, May 13). A good eye for art. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Huang, L. (2013, May 13). A good eye for art. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Yap, E. (1989, October 15). He translates dreams into ads and makes them workable themes. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Multiple-award winner. (1989, March 1). The Straits Times, p. 3; Green lights for the winner. (1956, January 17). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Honour for young Singapore cameraman. (1955, July 12). The Singapore Free Press, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Multiple-award winner. (1989, March 1). The Straits Times, p. 3; Yap, E. (1989, October 15). He translates dreams into ads and makes them workable themes. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Chua, S. B. (2006). Legends: Soo Bin’s portraits of Chinese ink masters. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, p. 10. (Call no.: RCLOS 759.951 CHU)
12. Huang, L. (2013, May 13). A good eye for art. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Power of ten – Chua Soo Bin: An artist’s artist. (2009, October). 《早报·报志》 [ZbBZ], (1), 15. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 059.951 ZBBZ)
14. Chua, S. B. (2006). Legends: Soo Bin’s portraits of Chinese ink masters. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, p. 8. (Call no.: RCLOS 759.951 CHU)
15. Chua, S. B. (2006). Legends: Soo Bin’s portraits of Chinese ink masters. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, pp. 9, 276. (Call no.: RCLOS 759.951 CHU); Tan, B. H. (1989, January 30). A journey to excellence. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Chua, S. B. (2006). Legends: Soo Bin’s portraits of Chinese ink masters. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, pp. 7–9. (Call no.: RCLOS 759.951 CHU)
17. Tang, K. F. (1989, March 1). Top artistes relax to get their ideas. The Straits Times, p. 1; Multiple-award winner. (1989, March 1). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18.《蔡斯民留真像片捐赠国家博物院》 [Chua Soo Bin donated photographs from the Liuzhen series to National Museum]. (1989, February 25). 《联合早报》 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Shetty, D. (2014, April 26). Heroes of heritage. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Leading galleries of Singapore. (2006). Singapore: Art Galleries Association Singapore, p. 31. (Call no.: RSING 708.95957 LEA); Narayan, P. N. (1994, November 12). A magnificent flowering. The Business Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Art Singapore: The world’s premier contemporary Asian art fair. (2001). Singapore: Art Galleries Association Singapore, p. 64. (Call no.: RSING 709.50905 ART); Art Singapore 2002: The contemporary Asian art fair. (2002). Singapore: Art Galleries Association Singapore, p. 96. (Call no.: RSING q709.50904 CON)
22. Leading galleries of Singapore. (2006). Singapore: Art Galleries Association Singapore, p. 31. (Call no.: RSING 708.95957 LEA)
23. Huang, L. (2013, May 13). A good eye for art. The Straits Times, p. 6; Cheah, U. H. (2000, September 29). Arts more than entertainment: minister. The Business Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Art Singapore: The world’s premier contemporary Asian art fair. (2001). Singapore: Art Galleries Association Singapore, p. 4. (Call no.: RSING 709.50905 ART); Art Singapore 2002: The contemporary Asian art fair. (2002). Singapore: Art Galleries Association Singapore, p. 6. (Call no.: RSING q709.50904 CON)
24.《第三届泛马摄影展览会订十日起举行十天  佳作一百六十六帧公开展览》 [The ten-day Third Pan-Malayan Photographic Exhibition opens to public on the 10th, and will exhibit 166 works of merit]. (1955, June 3). 《南洋商报》 [Nanyang Siang Pau], p. 7; 《摄影学会主办第四届泛马摄影展览 今日假英文协由叶平玉主持开幕》 [Fourth Pan-Malayan Photographic Exhibition is opened by Dr Yap Pheng Geck today at British Council]. (1956, June 15). 《南洋商报》 [Nanyang Siang Pau], p. 6; London Show of Colony photos. (1956, October 3). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Singapore can see fine Asian exhibition. (1956, April 17). The Singapore Free Press, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Best ‘Pics’ of the year. (1957, January 8). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; The Photographic Society of Singapore. (1957). 5th Pan-Malayan photographic exhibition and Foto News. Singapore: The Photographic Society of Singapore. (Call no.: RCLOS q779.0745957 FIF)
27. A photo show of Malayan culture. (1960, September 6). The Singapore Free Press, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Pictures of artists tell a story. (1989, February 17). The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Lim, S. J. (1996, October 4). Republic’s photographers step out from behind their cameras. The Straits Times, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Lee, J. X. (2015, December 11). Hour at the museum. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
31. Giam, S. (1955, August 9). Invitation from Indonesia. The Singapore Free Press, p. 13; 《第三届泛马摄影展览会订十日起举行十天  佳作一百六十六帧公开展览》 [The ten-day Third Pan-Malayan Photographic Exhibition opens to public on the 10th, and will exhibit 166 works of merit]. (1955, June 3). 《南洋商报》 [Nanyang Siang Pau], p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32.《摄影学会主办第四届泛马摄影展览 今日假英文协由叶平玉主持开幕》 [Fourth Pan-Malayan Photographic Exhibition is opened by Dr Yap Pheng Geck today at British Council]. (1956, June 15). 《南洋商报》 [Nanyang Siang Pau], p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. Giam, S. (1957, February 12). Russian prints inspire local lensmen. The Singapore Free Press, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
34. A photo show of Malayan culture. (1960, September 6). The Singapore Free Press, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35. Photographic Society of Singapore. (1965). 1965 Annual Report. The Photographic Society of Singapore Monthly Bulletin, November 1965. (Call no.: RCLOS 770.605957 PSSMB)
36. Photographic Society of Singapore. (1967). P.S.S. Service Awards. The Photographic Society of Singapore Monthly Bulletin, October 1967. (Call no.: RCLOS 770.605957 PSSMB)
37. Tang, K. F. (1989, March 1). Top artistes relax to get their ideas. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
38. Huang, L. (2013, May 13). A good eye for art. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.


The information in this article is valid as at 2011 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Personalities>>Biographies>>Artists>>Cultural Medallion Recipients
Advertising--Photographers--Singapore
Photographers--Singapore--Biography
Chua, Soo Bin, 1932-
Arts>>Photography>>Fashion photography
Award winners