Yip Cheong Fun
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Yip Cheong Fun (b. 1903, Hong Kong - d. 16 September 1989, Singapore), or "Old Man Yip", was one of Singapore's top pioneer photographers. He was the winner of more than 50 worldwide photography awards in his lifetime, identified as one of ten Honorary Outstanding Photographers of the Century (Seascapes) by the Photographic Society of New York in 1980 and awarded the Cultural Medallion for photography in 1984.
Yip started off as a mechanic in his younger days. He became a technician and an engineering supervisor with the United Engineers in his adulthood. He resigned from the United Engineers in 1943 when he discovered the firm was manufacturing arms for the Japanese military. He then started his own engineering workshops at Kreta Ayer Road and Kallang, where he employed lathe operators, mechanics, turners and fitters to fabricate engineering machines for sale. In his later years, he worked for Tien Wah Press as an engineering supervisor.
Yip was passionate about photography, which started as a hobby to him when he was in his twenties. His first camera was a Rolleiflex, which he bought as he wanted to take photos for his family album. From then on, his love for photography grew. It led him to capture Singapore's landscapes and scenery before the onset of urban redevelopment. He took photos of harbours, plantations and kampungs. He also travelled to neighbouring Johor by train, just so he could take photos of the scenery there every weekend. The coming of World War II 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.
Yip began sending his pictures for competitions and exhibitions in overseas salons when he was in his fifties and won many awards. However, he remained an amateur all through his life. In his later years, Yip and his wife ran a grocery store in Chinatown. Although he started naming his shop Yip's Photo Service when he reached the age of seventy, the shop only acted as a collecting agency for developing and printing of photos on behalf of Rainbow Photo Service and Kodak. It was a service mainly run by Yip's wife, Leong Lin, who also used the shop as a grocery shop.
A pioneer photographer in Singapore, 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 onwards before rapid industrialisation set in". 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".
Yip's seascapes became one of his trademarks. "Rowing At Dawn" (1955), Yip's first entry into a salon competition, was his most locally and internationally awarded photo. It won half a dozen gold medals and awards since it was first entered for competition. The photo, featuring a solitary boatman rowing in the misty morning light, was an example of Yip's many seascape photos. His seacape prints clinched him the internationally-acclaimed title of Outstanding Photographer of the Century (Seascapes) from the Photographic Society of New York in 1980.
Yip was also well known for his black-and-white photography, winning awards in black-and-white print sections in competitions. For instance, in 1978, he won a Merlion pewter award for "Fisherman's Hurry", a monochrome print that featured two men wading towards the shore with their day's catch on their shoulders.
In all, Yip won more than 50 world-wide awards since he entered his photos for competitions in the 1950s.
Selected awards/ honours
1969 : Listed in "Who's Who" in international photography by the Photographic Society of America
1971 : Merlion pewter award for "Fishermen's Hurry", 29th Singapore International Salon of Photography
1972, 1983 : Honorary Excellence Distinction, Federation Internationale de l'art Photographique
1980 : One of ten Honorary Outstanding Photographers of the Century (Seascapes), Photographic Society of New York, USA
1984 : Cultural Medallion (photography)
Wife: Leong Lin
Children: Four sons, two daughters
Keye, A. W. (2004). Chinatown : Different exposures. Singapore : Fashion 21.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 KEY -[HIS]
Yip, C. F. (1986). Yip Cheong Funs pictorial collection. Singapore: C. F. Yip.
(Call no. : RSING 770.924 YIP)
12 Spore lensmen listed in US Whos Who. (1970, July 16). The Straits Times.
Cheong, C. F. (1992, March 2). Three men and a passion. The Straits Times, Life, p. 12.
Five Spore lensmen win top awards in exhibition. (1978, July 2). The Straits Times.
Lim, S. T. (1989, October 15). The enduring power of black-and-white. The Sunday Times, Photo Fair Supplement, p. 10.
Over 60 years of clicking. (1984, November 7). The Straits Times.
Photographer Yip Cheong Fun dies. (1989, September 19). The Straits Times, p. 3.
Tan, C. (2006, April 1). Remembering Yip Cheong Fun; Cultural Medallion winner honoured in Singapore's largest photo exhibition. The Straits Times. Retrieved November 5, 2007, from Lexis-Nexis database
A. Yip (personal communication, November 1, 2007).
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.
Personalities>>Biographies>>Artists>>Cultural Medallion Recipients
Yip, Cheong Fun, 1903-1989