Singapore Aerial Photos: late 1940s

Above: Singapore’s inner harbour and Clifford Pier.
Below: Bras Basah, looking towards Raffles Institution.


This project will publish a book, and an art quality portfolio, from Singapore aerial photos. Taken in the late 1940s, these images, with impressive resolution, were taken by a firm that specialized in oblique-view aerial photos. They provide a superb impression of Singapore in its postwar years.

The Foundation’s Edward Stokes first saw these photos as prints, in an Australian library in 2007. He was then scouting around for unknown Asian photo images. Later he heard that the collection, including the original Singapore negatives, had become part of a library collection elsewhere.

The photos were taken with purpose-built cameras, from slow and low-flying aircraft. Together with often working early or late in the day, to create shadows and thus graphic three dimensional detail, this brought a rare quality to the images.

Singapore photographic and historical experts regard these aerial photos as most important. Their views give an extremely detailed portrayal of postwar Singapore, much as it was to remain during the 1950s. With medium-format negatives, the images capture the city with absorbing detail.

The most memorable images show the heart of the old city, with its commercial and administrative areas near the Singapore River. Edwardian and interwar buildings line the inner harbour waterfront, and godowns reach along the river. The grid of roads, streets and open spaces allow one to better understand the Singapore of today.

The text will present the firm’s aviation photo operation, why and how its Singapore photos came to be taken – and how this relates to postwar Singapore. What the photos show about Singapore’s urban topography then will be covered through detailed, facing-page extended captions.

Given their quality, based on medium-format negatives, and fine reproduction, the publications will have international level quality. It is hoped that drone images, to be taken at precisely the same altitudes and GPS locations, will add a contemporary aspect for exhibitions.

It is presently expected that the Foundation will co-publish the book with the National University of Singapore Press.

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

Publication – late 2018 or early 2019