#CHALLENGETHELIMITS

THE SOUL NEEDS MORE SPACE THAN THE BODY

by Munster Cheong & Leslie Heng

Have you ever been pushed to your limits? Leica Camera Singapore presents "Challenge The Limits" local campaign that embraces diversity, arts and culture.

In a first-ever campaign that sees six local renowned photographers coming together to take on a completely different genre of photography, “Challenge The Limits’’ is all about the perseverance and grit of the photographers as they challenge themselves out of their comfort zone. It is also a portrayal of the belief of the human spirit and how far one can potentially go. Comfort can equally be assuring and yet it can also trap people in the same perspective. For this campaign, the photographers train their seasoned lenses onto unfamiliar territory as they embrace each other’s area of expertise; true to their artists’ spirit of adventure and boldness.

The first #ChallengeTheLimits exhibition spotlights two of our veteran photographers Munster Cheong and Leslie Heng. 

Munster and Leslie are passionate about revealing their point of view. Over the years, they’ve developed their own obsessive and sensitive language of looking, each capturing very different aspects of life – Munster focusing on the human subject, Leslie framing cityscapes. For this project, they train their seasoned lens onto unfamiliar terrain, approaching each other’s area of mastery. They dedicated two months learning about each others’ practices through conversation and through the camera. Enquiring, exploring, attempting to uncover unexamined angles of emotion. Comfort can trap us in the same view; this exchange encourages a reconnection of being to surroundings, gaze to inner life. Boundaries become parentheses and a foundation finds new form.

Munster (@Munsterphotography)

Munster, whose medium is on high definition video projection on archival print, showcases the time lapse of the body through dawn to dusk and raises the question and meaning of our bodies as vessels to provide the setting of our experiences.

The Soul Needs More Space Than The Body

Shot on SL2

"I adopted Nat into my life three years ago, though the official, State-recognised adoption has yet to be completed. My eight-year-old son lives in Thailand with my wife, Thanchanok. It’s been over a year that we’ve been separated by the pandemic, but we are anticipating to see each other very soon.

In preparation for the life that we will build here, my wife and I have deliberated at length about whether to make our son a PR or citizen. The crux of these concerns is whether a Singaporean citizenship will detract from his Thai identity. Nat was born and raised in Thailand and is proud of his cultural heritage. Clearly no one can take away one’s true sense of belonging, but will a passport– the official stamp of belonging– assert itself over one’s identity? Do we somehow absorb our surroundings, our bodies mere vessels that provide the settings for our experiences? This work engages with these reflections on the meaning and making of selfhood."

Munster is obsessed with the power of the visual language. He believes it has a profound influence to life and that of its symbolism, mood, emotional energy, elements, and tone can expand life by way of creating new realities and experiences for the viewer. His sources of inspiration came watching films, looking at paintings and especially art installations. "The whole point is to look beyond the field of my own familiarity. And all forms of the visual arts feed, draw, influence and inspire one another." 

"My obsession with the power of visual language, and influence of human perception begins with the SL2." - Munster Cheong

When asked about his experience on the #ChallengeTheLimits campaign, Munster said "I thought it was very interesting to tie me and Leslie up with this campaign as both of us have different fortes. In this campaign I took part in spatial photography which is Leslie’s forte, injecting it to my visual making. I thoroughly enjoyed that Leica gave me free rein and creative freedom to approach this work in a more introspective nature that’s more relevant to my own life experiences. I challenge myself by attempting a genre in an unfamiliar territory - documenting spaces. Approaching this with an introspective viewpoint, my work undergoes experimentation and self-reflection, which is diametrically opposing to my commercial practice. Through this process, I begin to question the notion, “what is a photograph?” as I explore alternative perspectives to the art of image making with the Leica SL2."

His biggest takeaway from this campaign? "To be able to share my work at a more personal level and not just commercial-driven. Seeing the audience’s reactions to my works at Leica to works of such nature, drives me to create more works that are more relatable to the public as it is extremely heartwarming to have people relating to it so much, as opposed to aesthetically pleasing visuals works I’ve done over the past many years."

LESLIE HENG (@blackmobil)

Leslie, showcases eight individuals whom he highly admires, as he gets pasts his own inhibitions of doing portraits in photography. The eight individuals in this series of portraits have inspired and emboldened Leslie in some way or other. What is the material of inspiration? It is both an emotion and the sprouting of emotions, a potential energy, a fuel for action. Leslie attempts to depict this unique stimulation he derives from each of his chosen subjects. The photographs are paired with recordings of autobiographical statements from each person, bringing their voices into the picture. The co-created portraiture highlights the shared nature of identity – a story with many versions, one that’s never just our own.

Shot on SL2-S

Leslie is a self-taught photographer who started out photographing and documenting everyday things; breakfast on the table, places he visits, and the things he do, mostly using the mobile phone or a point and shoot camera. One thing led to another and his love for exploring soon developed into an obsession to capture spaces in an artsy way through his lens. He is now best known for photographing spaces, architecture and landscape, and his go-to photography kit now includes the Leica SL2-S, Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm lens, and a tripod.

Speaking of his experience on the #ChallengeTheLimits campaign, Leslie said "Very challenging indeed. Just imagine, for someone who rarely shoots human subjects, the “works” of his first portraiture attempts are to be used for a self-crafted exhibition. From the conceptualization to execution, and putting everything together was a huge challenge on its own." 

"My biggest takeaway was actually meeting and connecting with other photographers and artists. I was working on this exhibition during the heightened alert phase, and to add to that, weather wasn’t on our side, cloudy skies or raining. I learnt to get creative in our boundaries!" said Leslie, when asked about his biggest takeaways from the campaign.

His favourite piece for this exhibition? That would be the one with Royston Tan (smoking). "I cannot explain how excited I was when I did my recce and found that rustic backdrop with numbers inscribed at every corner, I exclaimed to myself “this is it, I’ve got to bring Royston here!“ I love exploring places and discovering quaint spaces."

"I love exploring and getting acquainted with new spaces through my photography. With the versatility of SL2-S, I feel well equipped and empowered when I go about my shoots." - Leslie Heng

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