Tender moments in glimpses of private life

SINGAPORE - 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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