David Tay Poey Cher



David Tay Poey Cher (b. 9 July 1945, Singapore–)1 is one of the most influential figures in the Singapore photography scene. He was the first Asian to be elected to the Directory Board of the International Federation of Photographic Art. From 1990 to 2013, Tay served as the president of the Photographic Society of Singapore (PSS).2 In 1982, he was awarded the Cultural Medallion for his artistic excellence and contributions to photography in Singapore,3 becoming the first photographer to receive the honour.4

Early years

Tay’s foray into photography really started out by chance. Like the typical teenager of his day, he had wanted a scooter as a present. His father, knowing the dangers of riding a scooter, offered to buy him a camera that was of the same value as the scooter. With the money, Tay was able to buy an upper-range camera – a Rolleiflex 2.8F twin-lens reflex – and to sign up for a basic course in photography at the PSS in 1962.5

Photography brought Tay many hours of joy.6 In 1963, he won a prize for a quarterly competition organised for members of the PSS, which kick-started his life-long passion in photography. His winning submission – a photograph taken at Mata Ikan village where cockle shells were being burnt to a powder for use as whitewash paint – displayed his keen eye for detail even as a young photography student.7

Over the decades, Tay received many honours, including the Honorary Excellence Distinction of the International Federation of Photographic Art (FIAP) in 1981, a Fellowship from The Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain for excellence in illustrative photography in 1987,8 and the Fenton Medal from The Royal Photographic Society in 1999 for his contributions in photography.9 In 2008, he became the first Asian to be elected to the Directory Board of the FIAP.10

Education
Tay attended St Joseph’s School from 1952 to 1961.11

Career

Tay began his career in the newspaper industry in 1979 when he joined the Chinese newspaper Nanyang Siang Pau. He worked his way up the ranks and eventually became CEO of the magazine group of Singapore Press Holdings (SPH). While working at SPH, Tay found opportunities to integrate his passion for photography with his day-to-day work interactions with the press photographers in the newsrooms. His work with the newspapers also made him aware of the impact and significance of good photojournalism.12

Tay raised the profile of photojournalism by bringing in well-known photographers to open up fresh avenues for the new generation of photographers and to mentor SPH’s own photographers.13

Under the banner of the PSS and with support from the Royal Dutch Embassy in Singapore, Tay brought in the World Press Photography exhibition, which showcased the works of world-renowned photojournalists. He also spearheaded the organisation of the Clickart: World Photojournalists Meet 2003. Through these high-profile events, Tay pursued his vision to spark greater public interest in other fields of photography and promote a more vibrant photography scene in Singapore.14

Throughout all this, Tay continued to take photographs in his free time and remained active in the local photography scene. His exposure to press photography sparked an interest in portraiture. The streets became his photo studio as he took photographs of people, capturing elusive moments in natural light. Tay then applied for the Cultural Medallion grant to embark on a portrait photography project that he found meaningful.15

Accomplishments

After retiring from his job at SPH in 2006, Tay spent two-and-a-half years travelling in Asia, visiting countries such as Malaysia, China, Brunei, Vietnam, Macau and India to work on his project.16

In June 2011, Tay presented the photographs taken during his journeys in an exhibition, Coming of Age: Forgotten Faces of a Greying Asia, held at the ION Art Gallery in Singapore. Tay’s photographs were also compiled into a 150-page publication whose sale proceeds went to the Silver Tribute Fund to help the disadvantaged aged.17

The 30 photographs in the exhibition, shot in colour and black-and-white, look at the different aspects of ageing as seen through Tay’s eyes and demonstrate his appreciation of the elderly who, he feels, are often forgotten or overlooked.18 At once impactful and poignant, Coming of Age took audiences on an emotional journey, casting the spotlight on lives that were often impoverished yet full of grace and dignity.19

Awards and accomplishments
20

1981: Received Honorary Excellence Distinction award, International Federation of Photographic Art.
1982: First photographic artist to be awarded the Culture Medallion Award for artistic excellence and contributions to photography in Singapore.
1987: Received Fellowship for excellence in illustrative photography, The Royal Photographic Society.
1990: President, Photographic Society of Singapore.
1998: Appointed Justice of Peace by the President of Singapore.21

1999: Received Fenton Medal, Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain, UK.
2003: Chairman, Organising Committee, Clickart: World Photojournalists Meet 2003.
2006: Awarded Public Service Star in recognition of his contribution to the well-being of Singapore and for helping the less fortunate in Singapore.22

2007: Harmony of Minds project to promote inter-religious harmony; raised S$140,000 for the President’s Challenge.23
2008:
First Asian to be elected Member, Directory Board, International Federation of Photographic Art.
2010: Raised S$150,000 for the needy elderly through the Birds in the Garden City project, which also aimed to promote a greener living environment.24
2011: Solo exhibition and book launch, Coming of Age: Forgotten Faces of a Greying Asia, ION Art Gallery, Singapore.
2011: Participated in Pingyao International Photo Festival, Shaanxi, China.
2012: Solo exhibition, Coming of Age: Forgotten Faces of Greying Asia, Wisma Kebudayaan Soka Gakkai, Malaysia.
2012: Participated in Jinan Biennial International Photography Festival, Shandong, China.
2013: Solo exhibition, Coming of Age: Forgotten Faces of a Greying Asia, Fenton Hall, The Royal Photographic Society, London, UK.



Autho
r
Angeline Koh



References
1. Tribute.sg. (2012). David Tay. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=David+Tay

2.
Click Art. (2013). About the author. Retrieved from http://www.davidtaypc.sg/AboutTheAuthor.html

3. Honoured for spending half a life-time in the arts. (1982, October 30). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4.
Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 176. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR); Low, M. M. (1985, August 9). Cultured pearls on a ‘desert island’. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; National Arts Council. (2013). Cultural Medallion & Young Artist Award Recipients for Visual Arts. Retrieved from https://www.nac.gov.sg/art-forms/visual-arts/local-directory/cultural-medallion-young-artist-award-recipients-for-visual-arts
5.
Tay, D. P. C. (2011). Coming of age: Forgotten faces of a greying Asia. Singapore: David Tay Poey Cher, p. 52. (Call no.: RSING 779.2092 TAY);
Tribute.sg. (2012). David Tay. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=David+Tay; Tiong, J. (2012, June 2). Art: Old but not forgotten. Retrieved from http://www.nst.com.my/life-times/sunday-life-times/art-old-but-not-forgotten-1.90236
6.
Tay, D. P. C. (2011). Coming of age: Forgotten faces of a greying Asia. Singapore: David Tay Poey Cher, p. 52. (Call no.: RSING 779.2092 TAY)
7.
Click Art. (2013). About the author. Retrieved from http://www.davidtaypc.sg/AboutTheAuthor.html
8. Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 176. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)
9.
Click Art. (2013). About the author. Retrieved from http://www.davidtaypc.sg/AboutTheAuthor.html
10.
World Photography Organisation. (2014). David Tay. Retrieved from http://www.worldphoto.org/about-wpo/the-world-photographic-academy/world-photographic-academy-members/the-world-photographic-academy/the-world-photographic-academydavid-tay/

11.
Tribute.sg. (2012). David Tay. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=David+Tay

12.
Click Art. (2013). About the author. Retrieved from http://www.davidtaypc.sg/AboutTheAuthor.html; Tribute.sg. (2012). David Tay. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=David+Tay

13.
Click Art. (2013). About the author. Retrieved from http://www.davidtaypc.sg/AboutTheAuthor.html

14.
Click Art. (2013). About the author. Retrieved from http://www.davidtaypc.sg/AboutTheAuthor.html; Tribute.sg. (2012). David Tay. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=David+Tay

15.
Click Art. (2013). About the author. Retrieved from http://www.davidtaypc.sg/AboutTheAuthor.html
16.
The Royal Photographic Society. David Tay Poey Cher FRPS July 2013. Retrieved from http://www.rps.org/fenton-house/David-Tay-FRPS
; Tay, D. P. C. (2011). Coming of age: Forgotten faces of a greying Asia. Singapore: David Tay Poey Cher, p. 7. (Call no.: RSING 779.2092 TAY).
17.
Tay, D. P. C. (2011). Coming of age: Forgotten faces of a greying Asia. Singapore: David Tay Poey Cher, p. 5. (Call no.: RSING 779.2092 TAY)
18.
The Royal Photographic Society. David Tay Poey Cher FRPS July 2013. Retrieved from http://www.rps.org/fenton-house/David-Tay-FRPS
19.
Click Art. (2013). About the author. Retrieved from http://www.davidtaypc.sg/AboutTheAuthor.html
20.
Tribute.sg. (2012). David Tay. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=David+Tay

21.
Singapore Government. (2013). Justices of the Peace, Singapore. Retrieved from http://app.sgdi.gov.sg/listing.asp?agency_subtype=dept&agency_id=0000003590

22.
PhotoVivo.com.(2013, June). In conversation. Retrieved from http://www.photovivo.com/forum/inconversation/PhotoVivoInConversationWithDavidTay.pdf

23.
PhotoVivo.com.(2013, June). In conversation. Retrieved from http://www.photovivo.com/forum/inconversation/PhotoVivoInConversationWithDavidTay.pdf

24.
PhotoVivo.com.(2013, June). In conversation. Retrieved from http://www.photovivo.com/forum/inconversation/PhotoVivoInConversationWithDavidTay.pdf




The information in this article is valid as at 3 January 2014 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
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Arts