“Room” is a series of portraits, self-portraits and letters, exploring the turn from girlhood to womanhood.
Featuring: Charmaine Poh
United Photo Industries
James Estrin and David Gonzalez, Co-Editors of the New York Times Lens Blog
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“Room” is a series of portraits, self-portraits and letters, exploring the passage from girlhood to womanhood.
I wanted to use photography as a means to explore what the definition of womanhood meant for those who, like me, had found themselves as young adult women. It seemed like we had somehow stumbled upon this status without knowing how we got here. I sought women from various backgrounds who gave me their own definitions of being an adult woman. Some were defined by religion or sexuality, while others were defined by their mothers or lovers.
I dressed them in their high school uniforms, which are mandatory in Singapore, and are iconic visual representations of adolescence. I then asked them to think about the turning point in their lives, and photographed them in their most private space — their bedrooms — before asking them to write a letter to their young, adolescent selves. Feeling that much of society defines women by our physicality, I took self-portraits, each one zeroing in on a particular body part. These body parts are undertones to the portraits — a way to look at the body and question what makes it interpreted as feminine or not. I am interested in raising questions, rather than asserting a definitive answer for the viewer.
Charmaine Poh is a Chinese-Singaporean photographer whose work concerns memory, gender, youth and solitude. Based in Singapore but frequently on the road, she is dedicated to unfolding narratives across Asia. She has made work on class divisions in Bangladesh, women in a transitioning Burma, and LGBTQ rights in Cambodia. Her latest personal projects focus on young adulthood in Singapore.
Born in 1990, she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in international relations from Tufts University in 2013, where she was also a student in the program for Narrative and Documentary Practice. She also co-founded Clicking Together, an education initiative in India that uses photography to bridge socio-economic and cultural gaps in society. Her work has been published and exhibited internationally. She recently completed the VII Masterclass Berlin and was invited to participate in the 2017 New York Portfolio Review.