Charles Lim was born in Singapore in 1976. In 2004 he gave up his work as a graphic designer and art director to devote himself entirely to photography. With the series What’s Your Dream?, begun in 2001, Lim asks strangers encountered on the streets of his hometown to write down their dreams on a little blackboard and pose for a picture. Based on a thousand portraits, he proposes his own unique survey of the “Singapore Dream”. This lifelong, ongoing project has led him beyond both administrative and personal borders, to Malaysia, Thailand and China.
Although he edits the snapshots of his street encounters in Photoshop, Lim is not driven by artistic pretensions. The idea for What’s Your Dream? came to him the day after a childhood friend died. Soon after, another of his friends committed suicide. For someone who lost a friend every year but one between 2000 and 2008, this work provides a cathartic outlet by placing subjects and spectators face to face with their own aspirations.
His series Survivors also relies heavily on Photoshop. It features groups of characters, but since Lim could not pay for models, they are all played by two of his friends. Through this project his intention was to suggest the deceptive sense of security derived from a repetitive daily routine. Faced with the constant demand to conform to society’s expectations, people hide their identities behind masks. However, Lim wonders if this is precisely what robs them of their sense of being. Furthermore, if they manage to break free, they are brought to a standstill, like the characters seen in one of these photographs, unable – and for the most part unwilling – to find the exit from an elevator. His decision to clothe his models in pyjamas emphasises the widespread practice of sleepwalking through life that Lim sets out to warn us against.
Gilles Massot, Wubin Zhuang, curators
Text from the catalogue-book "Photoquai", co-edited by Musée du Quai Branly- Actes-Sud