Marjorie Doggett’s Singapore: 1950s

Above: A Singapore shophouse etched with shadows.
Below: The heart of the city, overlooking Raffles Place.


Inspired by the range, quality and historical value of Marjorie Doggett’s 1950s photographs, the Foundation is preparing to publish a book based on her images. Related to this, in 2016 Nicholas Doggett, Marjorie’s son, donated the Marjorie Doggett Collection to the National Archives of Singapore. This treasure trove, with seven hundred medium-format negatives, prints and documentary materials, sheds fresh light on the Singapore of the 1950s.

That in mind, she set out to photograph the urban environs. Doggett, painstakingly and lovingly, her Rolliecord in hand, roamed Singapore. The resulting images – the work of a fine photographer – are superb. Her portrayals are comprehensive, beautifully capturing the times. Marjorie’s images, full of ‘character’ and ‘light’, present a compelling view of Singapore. Doggett’s resulting book, Characters of Light, was published in 1957. The volume was the first photographic book to document the Singapore urban landscape. It was republished in 1985.

Forseeing the massive development to come, and recognizing the need to preserve the best from the past, Doggett observed in Characters of Light, ‘The problem of protecting and restoring old buildings, in the context of urban renewal, is a challenge that should stimulate Singapore’s ingenuity.’ Doggett noted that buildings represent the lives of all those who have lived and worked in them. Through photographs, ‘both buildings and people come alive and assume an added attraction’.

The Foundation’s book will feature the photographs taken by Doggett of Singapore in the 1950s, with many hitherto unpublished images. These portray the urban landscape, businesses and trades, social life, Chinese, Malay, Indian and European peoples, their places of worship, recreation, music and much more. The book will be enriched by records in the Marjorie Doggett Collection. These reveal Marjorie’s personal and general insights into the Singapore of the 1950s.


It is presently expected that the Foundation will co-publish the book with the National Archives of Singapore, holder of the Marjorie Doggett Collection, and the National University of Singapore Press.

The Foundation is now seeking a private donor or corporate sponsor for the project.

Publication – late 2019