Yip Cheong Fun



Yip Cheong Fun (b. 1903, Hong Kongd. 16 September 1989,  Singapore),1 or “Old Man Yip”, was one of Singapore’s top pioneer photographers.2 He was the winner of more than 50 worldwide photography awards in his lifetime. In 1980, he was named by the Photographic Society of New York as one of the 10 Honorary Outstanding Photographers of the Century (Seascapes). Yip was awarded the Cultural Medallion for photography in 1984.3

Early life
Yip was born in Hong Kong in 1903 and came to Singapore with his parents when he was just seven months old. His father died in 1907, and two years later, he was sent to live with relatives in China as his mother had to work. Due to neglect by his relatives, Yip returned to Singapore in 1913 and was reunited with his mother. He later studied at a private school in Chinatown.


Yip was a technical supervisor with United Engineers in his younger days. He was also passionate about photography, and took it up as a hobby in his 20s.5 His first camera was a Rolleiflex, which he had bought in 1936 to take photos for his family album. Yip left United Engineers in 1942 and started a small engineering workshop at the back of his house. However, he still continued his passion for photography and even built a dark room.6

From then on, Yip’s love for photography grew, leading him to capture Singapore’s landscapes and scenery before the onset of urban redevelopment. He took photographs of harbours, plantations and kampong (Malay for “village”). He also travelled to Johor, Malaysia, by train every weekend to photograph the scenery there. The arrival of World War II, however, disrupted Yip’s hobby. When the Japanese confiscated his camera, his grief was palpable, but as soon as the war was over, he bought a new camera and took up photography again.7

In 1960, Yip joined Tien Wah Press as a commercial photographer and technician. He retired from the company in 1973.8 Yip began sending his pictures for competitions and exhibitions in overseas salons when he was in his 50s, and won many awards.9 However, he remained an amateur photographer all through his life.10 

Upon retirement, Yip and his wife ran a provision shop in Kreta Ayer, Chinatown, selling items such as parking coupons, tidbits, drinks, cigarettes and photographic films.11     

Achievements
Yip was one of the photographers, along with the late Kouo Shang Wei and Lim Lee, who captured the atmosphere of “old” Singapore from the 1950s to late ’80s.12 In 1984, Yip was honoured with the Cultural Medallion Award for photography, as his works “identified with Singaporean society and mirrored the nation’s way of life and history”.13


Yip’s seascapes became one of his trademarks.14 “Rowing At Dawn” (1955), Yip’s first entry into a salon competition, was his most awarded photograph, both locally and internationally. It had won many gold medals and awards since it was first entered for competition.15 The photograph, featuring a solitary boatman rowing in the misty morning light, was one of Yip’s many seascape works.16 His seascape prints clinched him the title of Outstanding Photographer of the Century (Seascapes) by the Photographic Society of New York in 1980.17

Yip was also well-known for his black-and-white photography, winning awards in the black-and-white print categories in competitions.18 In 1978, for instance, he won the Merlion Pewter Award for “Fisherman’s Hurry”, a monochrome print featuring two men wading towards the shore with their day’s catch on their shoulders.19

In all, Yip had garnered more than 50 awards since he entered his photographs for competitions in the 1950s.20

Selected awards and honours
1961: Honorary Fellowship, Royal Photographic Society, UK.21
1969: Listed in the International Salon of Photography Who’s Who, Photographic Society of America.22
1971: Merlion Pewter Award for “Fishermen’s Hurry”, 29th Singapore International Salon of Photography.23
1972, 1983: Honorary Distinction, Federation Internationale de l’art Photographique.24
1974: Honorary Fellowship, Photographic Society of Singapore.
1978: Honorary Life Membership, Photographic Society of Singapore.25
1980: One of 10 Honorary Outstanding Photographers of the Century (Seascapes), Photographic Society of New York, USA.
1984: Cultural Medallion (Photography), Singapore.26

Death
Yip passed away at the age of 86 on 16 September 1989, leaving behind wife Leong Lin, four sons, two daughters, 15 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren.27




Author

Nureza Ahmad



References
1. Photographer Yip Cheong Fun dies. (1989, September 19). The Straits Times, p. 3; Deaths. (1989, September 18). The Straits Times, p. 27. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Cheong, C. C. (1992, April 2). Three men and a passionThe Straits Times, p. 12; Photographer Yip Cheong Fun dies. (1989, September 19). The Straits Times, p. 3; Tan, C. (2006, April 1). Remembering Yip Cheong Fun. The Straits Times, p. 4; Seah, R. (1986, July 21). Photography is Fun. The Business Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Over 60 years of clicking. (1984, November 7). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Tan, B. T. (2006). An ingenious reverie: The photography of Yip Cheong Fun. Singapore: National Library Board and Singapore Heritage Society, p. 138. (Call no.: RSING 779.092 TAN)
5. Photographer Yip Cheong Fun dies. (1989, September 19). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Tan, B. T. (2006). An ingenious reverie: The photography of Yip Cheong Fun. Singapore: National Library Board and Singapore Heritage Society, p. 138. (Call no.: RSING 779.092 TAN); Tan, C. (2006, April 1). Remembering Yip Cheong Fun. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Over 60 years of clicking. (1984, November 7). The Straits Times, p. 7; Teo, H. W. (1983, November 22). An ‘escapee’ from gambling who became a top lensman. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Tan, B. T. (2006). An ingenious reverie: The photography of Yip Cheong Fun. Singapore: National Library Board and Singapore Heritage Society, p. 138. (Call no.: RSING 779.092 TAN)
9. Over 60 years of clicking. (1984, November 7). The Straits Times, p. 7; Toh, I. (1984, November 22). Capturing that magical moment. Singapore Monitor, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Yip, C. F. (1986). Yip Cheong Fun’s pictorial collection. Singapore: C. F. Yip, p. 141. (Call no.: RSING 770.924 YIP); Seah, R. (1986, July 21). Photography is Fun. The Business Times, p. 9; Seah, R. (1986, July 28). Old Man Yip and the seaThe Business Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. An ‘escapee’ from gambling who became a top lensman. The Straits Times, p. 1; Photographer Yip Cheong Fun dies. (1989, September 19). The Straits Times, p. 3; Seah, R. (1986, July 21). Photography is Fun. The Business Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Cheong, C. C. (1992, April 2). Three men and a passionThe Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Over 60 years of clicking. (1984, November 7). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Cheong, C. C. (1992, April 2). Three men and a passionThe Straits Times, p. 12; Seah, R. (1986, July 28). Old Man Yip and the seaThe Business Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Cheong, C. C. (1992, April 2). Three men and a passionThe Straits Times, p. 12; Over 60 years of clicking. (1984, November 7). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Cheong, C. C. (1992, April 2). Three men and a passionThe Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Over 60 years of clicking. (1984, November 7). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Lim, S. T. (1989, October 15). The enduring power of black and whiteThe Straits Times, p. 10; Five S’pore lensmen win top awards in exhibition. (1978, July 2). The Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Five S’pore lensmen win top awards in exhibition. (1978, July 2). The Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Over 60 years of clicking. (1984, November 7). The Straits Times, p. 7; Seah, R. (1986, July 21). Photography is Fun. The Business Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Tan, B. T. (2006). An ingenious reverie: The photography of Yip Cheong Fun. Singapore: National Library Board and Singapore Heritage Society, p. 138. (Call no.: RSING 779.092 TAN)
22. Over 60 years of clicking. (1984, November 7). The Straits Times, p. 7; 12 S’pore lensmen listed in US Who’s Who. (1970, July 16). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Five S’pore lensmen win top awards in exhibition. (1978, July 2). The Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Over 60 years of clicking. (1984, November 7). The Straits Times, p. 7; Photographer Yip Cheong Fun dies. (1989, September 19). The Straits Times, p. 3; Toh, I. (1984, November 22). Capturing that magical moment. Singapore Monitor, p. 18; Teo, H. W. (1983, November 22). An ‘escapee’ from gambling who became a top lensman. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Tan, B. T. (2006). An ingenious reverie: The photography of Yip Cheong Fun. Singapore: National Library Board and Singapore Heritage Society, p. 138. (Call no.: RSING 779.092 TAN)
26. Over 60 years of clicking. (1984, November 7). The Straits Times, p. 7; Photographer Yip Cheong Fun dies. (1989, September 19). The Straits Times, p. 3; Seah, R. (1986, July 28). Old Man Yip and the seaThe Business Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Photographer Yip Cheong Fun dies. (1989, September 19). The Straits Times, p. 3; Deaths. (1989, September 18). The Straits Times, p. 27. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



Further resources

National Archives of Singapore. (2016). Photographs: Yip Cheong Fun. [Photographs]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/

Yip, C. F. (1986). Yip Cheong Fun’s pictorial collection. Singapore: C. F. Yip. 
(Call no.: RSING 770.924 YIP) 

Yip Cheong-Fun. (2006). About Yip Cheong-Fun. Retrieved 2016, October 21 from Yip Cheong Fun website: http://www.yipcheongfun.com/index.html




The information in this article is valid as at 2007 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
Artists--Singapore--Biography
Award winners
Yip, Cheong Fun, 1903-1989
Singapore--History--Biography
Personalities>>Biographies>>Artists>>Cultural Medallion Recipients
Award winners--Singapore--Biography
Arts>>Photography
Photographers--Singapore--Biography