"I am not so keen on making good single images anymore," says Magnum photographer Chien-Chi Chang in the notes that accompany "Doubleness," his current exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore. Of course, that's the sort of self-deprecation that works best only when you are a virtuoso of the single image and the photo above, from Chang's China Town series, would suggest that he is.
But these days, the Taiwan- born photographer's deeper interest lies in taking multiple images of the same subjects, adding, in his words, "another layer to the theme." This technique is most overtly employed in The Chain, one of three projects making up the Singapore show. Chang's portraits of pairs of patients at a mental asylum in Taiwan, chained together like prisoners, are arranged in a horrific procession across the gallery walls, their sheer number and uniformity magnifying the sense of despair. In Double Happiness, which documents Vietnamese women at a marriage agency in Ho Chi Minh City as they meet, are chosen by and then married to men from Taiwan, the alternate moods of boredom and apprehension are intensified with every successive and similar-seeming picture.
The China Town series, the third component of "Doubleness," depicts the lives of Chinese migrants in New York City and takes a more conventional photojournalistic approach, but even here there is a thematic if not visual repetitiveness. "The migrants are telling the same story over and over again," Chang explains. "It's the sacrifice of happiness or freedom so that the next generation can have a better life. Sometimes I wonder if the sacrifice is worthwhile."
"Doubleness" comprises 130 photographs, three videos and two projections, and runs until Jan. 4. For more information, visit www.nationalmuseum.sg.
by Liam Fitzpatrick