Out in Singapore: Leslie Kee's exhibition of the country's LGBTQ community
Face to face
After debuting his LGBTQ 'Out in..." project in Japan (pictured above), Leslie Kee's photography exhibition is coming to Singapore. Although the Singaporean photographer started out capturing weddings back home, he slowly worked his way up while living in Tokyo, shooting fashion editorials that caught the eye of brands such as Yohji Yamamoto. A move to New York City saw him making waves in the Big Apple, shooting the likes of Beyoncé, Madonna and Kate Moss.
The Tokyo School of Visual Arts graduate continued to work as a fashion, art and celebrity photographer and film director. In Singapore, he recently photographed stills from Eric Khoo's Ramen Teh, starring Japanese actors Takumi Saitoh and Seiko Matsuda. Based in Tokyo since 1993, Kee is more than familiar with the capital — he was assigned as the official photographer for NHK's project in support of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Although he's renowned in the fashion circles, Kee's passion for documenting people's stories really come through in his work on the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) community. In 2016, he teamed up with Gap to exhibit 'Out in Japan' at the brand's Harajuku flagship. He was also invited by the organisers of the Tokyo Pride Parade to take photographs of the event.
Japan's attitude towards the LGBTQ community is seeing a shift from tolerance to acceptance. Tokyo's Shibuya and Setagaya wards became the first local governments to recognize same-sex partnerships in 2015, followed by the cities of Iga, Takarazuka and Naha. Sapporo and Fukuoka were next. Meanwhile, in Singapore, preparations for the 10th edition of Pink Dot, to be celebrated on 21 July at Hong Lim Park, are well underway.
After an open call for out LGBTQ people living in Singapore brought together over 300 individuals, Kee narrowed his selection down to 150 portraits. 'Out in Singapore' aims to build a more inclusive society that accepts and supports people who wish to come out. Through his black and white photographs, the creative hopes that the public can familiarise themselves with members of the marginalised community. Here's to a more progressive Singapore.