The Tree Near My House 1999. © Chow Chee Yong

Surrealism & ‘Darkroom Photoshop’, by Chow Chee Yong

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Making Waves, 2000. © Chow Chee Yong.

Making Waves, 2000. © Chow Chee Yong.

Chow Chee Yong is a judge in our inaugural Invisible Photographer Asia Awards 2013. He will be judging our unique, first-ever Photo Books Asia Award. In this post, Chee Yong reflects on his own surrealist photography and the ‘darkroom photoshop’ techniques used to create them.

Surrealism & ‘Darkroom Photoshop’, by Chow Chee Yong


The very 1st series of work I did was that of 30th Feb. It was a surrealistic set of work that involved multiple printing using multiple enlargers in the darkroom. It was old school Photoshop.

Since then, most people who have seen my other works would think that I have done some sort of manipulation to my images. Light Trails were done with exposures anywhere from 20mins to about 1hr 30mins. All of the film were obviously way overexposed. I had to develop the negatives at about N-5/6 to save the highlights. It created another realm of surrealistic effect to the construction site.

Well, I have to make a confession here. Sometimes I would do the unthinkable manipulation. For the Double Vision image (above), during the long exposure, I went over to the bush and started shaking them to create the “wind” effect. I got the similar stare and the quick getaway from the people who saw me at the Institute of Mental Health.

double vision

Double Vision, 2000. Selenium-toned Silverprint. © Chow Chee Yong

SUPPORT OF MAU 2000. © Chow Chee Yong

Support of Mau 2000. © Chow Chee Yong

Okutama River, 1999 Selenium-toned Silverprint. © Chow Chee Yong

Okutama River, 1999. Selenium-toned Silverprint. © Chow Chee Yong

My dream of escaping is very real to me. I remember that I started having that thought when I was in elementary school. Like most homes in Singapore, we have been fairly caged in by the grills that are tightly bolted. Looking out from within the room, my daydream would begin. Often dreaming of places that I have never been, most of these places were conjured in my mind. I would wander in my dreamland for a while and will only return after a good experience in that newfoundland. One of these places is Okutama River.

Grounded Window1992. © Chow Chee Yong

Grounded Window 1992. © Chow Chee Yong

Escape Thru The Closet 1999. © Chow Chee Yong

Escape Thru The Closet 1999. © Chow Chee Yong

People have often wondered and asked how I came up with ideas like this. It is often made up, of course. When I was young, I had little freedom, and often desired to have the ability to escape. That escape came through the form of dreaming, whether day-dreaming or for real.

The thought of being able to open a closet and run away was real to me. So when I decided to come up with a surrealistic series, images like these naturally came back to me.

The Tree Near My House 1999. © Chow Chee Yong

The Tree Near My House 1999. © Chow Chee Yong

Man From Down Under 1992. © Chow Chee Yong

Man From Down Under 1992. © Chow Chee Yong

Offshore 2000. © Chow Chee Yong

Offshore 2000. © Chow Chee Yong

Swimming In Summer 1992. © Chow Chee Yong

Swimming In Summer 1992. © Chow Chee Yong

The Floating Arrow at WMU 1992. © Chow Chee Yong

The Floating Arrow at WMU 1992. © Chow Chee Yong

Photographs & Text by Chow Chee Yong. More on his website: http://chowcheeyong.com and Facebook: www.facebook.com/ChowCheeYongPhotography

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