The urban photographer unmasking the country’s pragmatism through Geylang’s red light district
“Singapore is horny. We’re obsessed with the notion of sex, even though we don’t always feel free to express it,” muses photographer Nguan. A native himself, Nguan's series Singaporean Brothels found him wandering around Geylang, also known as the country's red light district, capturing its diverse architecture. It was only after he was accosted for doing so that he realised that many of these unassuming buildings were brothels, and so began his series.
The series is a sideline to Nguan’s project Singapore – where over 200 images take the form of a love letter to his homeland, inspired by the “the languor of her ageless afternoons; her haunting, confounding bougainvilleas; the storybook colours” that have captivated him since his birth. Mesmerised by the historic charm of the city, the photographer unmasked the brothels under the bright light of day, simultaneously capturing the secrecy of the industry existing within such mundane looking structures, and the bright, welcoming lights perched confidently outside. Although the legality of the brothels is uncertain, Nguan believes they are a valuable representation of Singaporean culture. “It’s perfectly logical that our authorities would see a need to regulate outlets for something as unhinged as sexual desire. These brothels are emblematic of the country’s pragmatism.”