The annual photography award that recognises Singapore’s most outstanding photographer, ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu, returns for its third year. This year’s ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu is also held in celebration of Martell Cordon Bleu’s centenary. As part of the celebrations, a specially constructed gallery called The Timeless Capsule will be hosting the photographs of this year’s nominees, along with an exhibition that explores the heritage of Martell Cordon Bleu.

To commemorate this special occasion and to pay homage to the legendary cognac that has given its name to the award, ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu is organised around the centenary theme of Eternal Discovery and will be presented in a multimedia format, steering away from the traditional photographic print.

Photography is intimately linked with the notion of discovery. A photographer creates images borne out of an instinct for discovery, creating images that explore different facets of the world we live in today, communicating themes, stories and ideas: Capturing that moment that will transcend time.

Each of the nine nominees has put together a series of images that are altogether universal and personal, replete with meaning not only for the photographer himself but also resonating with the viewer through their themes. The exhibited images delve into issues of home and identity, time and space, conflict and passion, and the forces of nature and human frailty.

Geraldine Lee interviewing Yian Huang at ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu’s official opening at The Timeless Capsule

This spirit of discovery is very much evident in the works of Yian Huang: A graduate of Wharton and a double Masters degree holder from Columbia. He first picked up a camera at the age of 28 and has covered the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He uses his lens to connect intimately with his subjects. The Edge of Passion showcases Huang’s intellectual curiousity as he strives to define that moment when we have pushed ourselves to the limit. He explores the diverse and disparate points about passion, the fine line between pain and pleasure, the black, white and everything in between. It is the ambiguity that intrigues Huang.

Yian Huang
Yian Huang

Yian Huang's works

In a lovely nod towards the qualities of a fine cognac, Huang said that with age, he is becoming more sensitive and understanding in his artistic approach. Age and maturity are helping him evolve as an artist and this process is also one of constant reinvention.

Another nominee is Tristan Cai. Cai materialises the concepts and ambiguities surrounding the philosophical structures of death, creation and religion in his art. He draws inspiration from academic research and direct first hand contact with institutes and individuals. Utilising staged photography and careful sequencing of his images, he crafts experiential spaces for critical dialogue. In Physical Realities of Death: A Memoir of Toivo Laukkanen, Cai deals with the themes of the values of living, death and the masculine role. This series of works is based upon his research on depression and visits to The Finnish Central Association for Mental Health, where he interacted with the healthcare workers and patients. The collected information and stories are then retold through the composite character of Toivo Laukkanen, played by Mr. Tapanai Muranen who was street-casted by Cai.

Tristan Tan
Tristan Cai

Tristan Chan's works

Despite being fictional, Cai’s photographs convey the power of photography’s ability to create a personal history and to shape our values. In the present day, with the accessibility of information and its ease of transmission, the potency of the photographic image has far greater reach than it had in the past.

A special Eternal Discovery prize has been introduced this year where members of the public will be able to vote for their favourite photographer online at or at the ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu exhibition in The Timeless Capsule. The photographer with the most votes will receive $1,000 and an exclusive Centenary Limited Edition bottle of Martell Cordon Bleu.

The exhibition runs at The Timeless Capsule till 22 August when the results of the award will be announced.

The Timeless Capsule is located on the outdoor premises of ION Orchard and open to the public from now till 22 August, 10am to 10pm.

Editor’s note: More photos of "ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu" available at our Flickr album. Words by Geraldine Lee, photos taken by Eric Lim and compliments from Icon de Martell Cordon Bleu and it’s nominees.