Emmeline Yong is a co-founder and director of Objectifs – Centre for Photography and Film. In the first of our interviews with the selection panel for the Objectifs Documentary Award, she explains why nurturing Southeast Asian documentary work is important, and how Objectifs is looking to extend its support for visual-storytellers.

Why did Objectifs launch this award?

Documentary is a particularly underserved genre in Southeast Asia, and we want to bridge a gap by serving non-fiction visual storytellers who are working on projects about their native communities. We want to foster a culture of in-depth and well-crafted documentary work in this region, particularly in today’s environment of instant stories and media saturation.

We are very much inspired by grants awarded by organisations such as Magnum Foundation, Pulitzer Center, W Eugene Smith Memorial Fund, Alexia Foundation and so on, which have contributed greatly to the depth and breadth of critical documentary work produced around the world. We hope to add to this global dialogue, and also put a spotlight on the important issues coming out of our own Southeast Asian backyard.

The Award is also an evolution of Objectifs’ earlier Shooting Home mentorship programme, which ran for 14 years. Shooting Home was designed to offer a platform for established photographers to share and guide emerging photographers. Through Shooting Home and other programmes, we’ve nurtured the artistic growth of numerous Singapore and Southeast Asian photographers, visual artists and filmmakers. Objectifs is taking the next step in its support for visual storytellers through this Award, by extending the mentorship process and championing their work via promotion and exhibition.

Why are there two categories to the award, and why do the recipients receive different kinds of support?

The Open Category caters to Southeast Asian (including Singapore), with more than 5 years as a professional photographer. We believe that offering a more experienced photographer a chance to work with a curator will be a good opportunity for artistic and professional growth. Non-fiction visual storytelling has grown to encompass much more than just conventional documentary photography, and working with a well-regarded curator such as Sam I-Shan from the National Gallery of Singapore is a great chance to explore different ways of presenting a project.

With the Emerging Category, we wanted to support people in the early stages of their career. We believe that a good mentor plays a key role in boosting the growth of newer photographers, through professional and artistic guidance. Sim Chi Yin, who is an immensely accomplished photographer, has extensive experience in this area. We’re very lucky to have her onboard.

The grant quantum for the award may be modest at the moment, but I hope that applicants will see value in the professional support and presentation opportunities offered as part of the award.

Where do you hope to take this award?

Going ahead, we would love to see the award grow in stature and patronage to support and groom a stronger Southeast Asian voice in documentary visual storytelling.

For this inaugural edition, we’re thankful for the presence of regional figures such as Jessica Lim, Director of the Angkor Photo Festival, and Shahidul Alam, Director of Dirk, Pathsala South Asia Media Institute and Chobi Mela Festival, on our selection panel. Together with Chi Yin and I-Shan, we hope to review some really high quality entries from Singapore and the region.


The Objectifs Documentary Award is now open for applications. The deadline for applications is 6 May 2018.