We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Three young men

circa 1910


Wah Heng

Myanmar, Singapore, Indonesia

  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    circa 1910
    Media category
    Materials used
    gelatin silver photograph
    9.4 x 13.5 cm 17.0 x 22.5 cm
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Gift of Robert Dein 2021
    South Building, ground level, Asian Lantern galleries
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Wah Heng

    Works in the collection


  • About

    Photography arrived in Myanmar in tandem with British military intervention in the mid-19th century, but soon became an affordable and attractive means for the elite to capture their own image. As the market for portraits grew, so too did the establishment of studios by local, European, Indian, Japanese and Chinese photographers such as Wah Heng. Aside from producing portraits like this one, Wah Heng & Co. supplied photographic materials, including, papers, films, lenses, and chemicals to studios across Southeast Asia from their store in Singapore. The firm is also known to have operated in Sulawesi, Indonesia.

    Not unlike modern selfies, this portrait was composed and circulated to a relevant audience. Similarly, it was used to project aspects of the sitter’s identity such as their interest to engage with modernity while holding onto valuable tradition. Two of the young men wear paramilitary attire, while the third wears a Burmese longyi (skirt cloth). Ironically, given the orchestrated quality of the photograph, a strange dynamic is at play between the civet cat on the boy’s lap and the dog on the left.

  • Places

    Where the work was made


  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 1 exhibition

    • Correspondence, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 10 Sep 2022–2024

  • Provenance

    Robert Dein, 2021, Sydney/New South Wales/Australia, donated to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, December 2021.

Other works by Wah Heng