Sunday 8 September 2013

Lee Kuan Yew's life captured in bilingual pictorial book

In 480 pictures, it tells his story - as politician, statesman and family man
By Andrea Ong, The Straits Times, 7 Sep 2013

FROM unpublished photos of Mr and Mrs Lee Kuan Yew in their courting days to iconic images of Mr Lee on the stump, the public and private lives of Singapore's first prime minister are captured in full visual splendour in a new book launched yesterday.

Titled Lee Kuan Yew: A Life In Pictures, the bilingual pictorial book was published by Straits Times Press to commemorate Mr Lee's 90th birthday on Sept 16.

The 268-page coffee-table book tells the story of Mr Lee - as politician, statesman and family man - through some 480 carefully curated photographs.

Of these, over 100 have never been published. They include pictures from Mr Lee's personal and family albums, which depict private moments between him and his late wife Kwa Geok Choo, as well as their three children.

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) chief executive Alan Chan presented the book to Mr Lee at his Istana office yesterday.

Also present were SPH English and Malay Newspapers Division managing editor Han Fook Kwang, who oversaw the project, Straits Times picture editor and project leader Stephanie Yeow, and Lianhe Zaobao news editor Han Yong May, who was in charge of the Chinese aspect of the book.

Mr Lee, in good spirits, flipped through the book and smiled when old photos of him and his children caught his eye.

"That's Loong," he said, pointing at pictures of him with his elder son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, as a toddler.
Looking at an undated, unpublished shot of him laughing while daughter Wei Ling and son Hsien Yang frolicked with their pet labrador at Sri Temasek, Mr Lee reckoned he would have been about 40 years old and his daughter around nine at the time. He thanked the team for their efforts.

"This is a book we are proud to be publishing," said SPH English and Malay Newspapers Division editor-in-chief Patrick Daniel.

"It offers readers a pictorial history of Singapore through the life of its founding prime minister," said Mr Daniel. "It's truly a collector's item for all Singaporeans and for anyone interested in the story of Singapore."

The book was put together by a team from The Straits Times and Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao. They started working on it from January. Besides Ms Yeow and Ms Han, the team included Straits Times correspondent Cassandra Chew, senior writer Leong Weng Kam and Lianhe Zaobao executive photographer Spencer Chung.

Straits Times senior executive artist Sally Lam designed the book, which weighs almost 2kg and is printed on high-quality art paper.

The team went through tens of thousands of photos in National Archives and SPH archives to pick out Mr Lee's best shots. They also approached his family, friends, colleagues and government agencies for pictures and leads.

Ms Yeow, 42, who has photographed Mr Lee many times, said she made visual quality her rule of thumb in selecting the photos.

"Many of the pictures give you a glimpse of Mr Lee out of the public eye and show him in a different light," she said.

The book opens and closes with chapters on Mr Lee's personal life and his love story with Madam Kwa, respectively.

The other four chapters cover key stages of his life: the road to Independence, nation- building, Mr Lee as statesman and his years after stepping down as prime minister in 1990.

There are also picture spreads on themes such as Mr Lee's relationship with PM Lee, his love for keeping fit and his days as the consummate election campaigner.

Ms Yeow and Ms Han, 45, hope the book, with its visual appeal and easy-to-digest text, will appeal to Singaporeans and bring back memories of the past.

The book will be available at all leading bookstores for $70 (including GST) from today. It can also be ordered online at

Tender moments in glimpses of private life
Team behind pictorial book trawled through thousands of photos
By Andrea Ong, The Straits Times, 7 Sep 2013

FORMER prime minister Lee Kuan Yew carefully squeezes eye drops into his wife's eye while she leans back next to him.

The private moment, captured on camera by their granddaughter Li Xiuqi in an Italian airport six years ago, is now part of a new pictorial book titled Lee Kuan Yew: A Life In Pictures.

The photo is one of over 100 gems that have not been published before and were uncovered by the team behind the 268-page coffee-table book published by Straits Times Press.

Led by ST picture editor Stephanie Yeow, the team comprised ST correspondent Cassandra Chew and senior writer Leong Weng Kam as well as Lianhe Zaobao's news editor Han Yong May and executive photographer Spencer Chung.

When they started work in January this year, Mr Han Fook Kwang, managing editor of the English and Malay Newspapers Division at Singapore Press Holdings, who oversaw the project, set them a tough challenge.

"I wanted it to be the best pictorial on Lee Kuan Yew that we can ever produce - one that is visually stunning," he said.

The team went through 15 to 20 boxes of Mr Lee's personal photos, some bearing meticulous captions, handwritten by Mrs Lee.

Ms Yeow and Mr Chung also trawled through more than 32,000 photos of Mr Lee in the National Archives, as well as thousands of photos in the Singapore Press Holdings archives.

Ms Chew also approached more than 40 people and government agencies to ask if they had photos or leads to share. These included Mr Lee's family, friends, former colleagues and the People's Action Party, as well as the offices of foreign statesmen.

Ms Li, 32, was among those Ms Chew contacted. The filmmaker, who is Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's eldest child, contributed shots she felt characterised the love between Mr and Mrs Lee.

"My grandparents were inseparable, caring and tender to each other even in private... I felt that these small mundane moments revealed their care for each other, and just wanted to capture them for my own remembrance."

She added: "These happened to be the only candid shots of them that I have."

The team also spent much time researching and verifying details for the captions and write-ups, often with the help of Lee family members. Many of the older photos had no captions and it had to track down details as obscure as the Chinese name of the doctor who delivered Mr Lee in 1923.

For Ms Yeow, the wide range of photos available showed that "this was a man who saw the value of visual documentation".

She said: "He rarely posed for photos but would leave photographers to do their job."

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