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From Sea to Shining Sea: 55 Years of U.S.-Singapore Relations in Photos
A virtual photo exhibition celebrating the ties between the United States and Singapore
September 8, 2023

In 2021, the United States and Singapore celebrated  55 years of diplomatic relations. To commemorate this milestone, U.S. Embassy Singapore launched the virtual photo exhibition “From Sea to Shining Sea: 55 Years of U.S.-Singapore Relations in Photos.

The exhibition highlighted the friendship, cooperation, and inspiration between the United States and Singapore since we established diplomatic relations in 1966. The 55 exclusive photos within the exhibition celebrate many of the shared values between the United States and Singapore with themes including Diplomatic Relations, Culture in Action, Musical Stars, Doing Business Together, Strength in Security, and a special collection of U.S. diplomat George Porter’s personal photos of Singapore from the 1960s.

While the exhibition has ended, we invite you to enjoy a preview of the exhibition and take a virtual walk down memory lane as we celebrate the deep ties and continued collaboration between our two nations. We welcome you to engage with a selection of the curated collection of photos and other multimedia content below. Share your favorite memories of U.S.-Singapore connections on social media with the hashtag #USSG55.

This exhibition is a collaboration between U.S. Embassy Singapore and the creative team of Project Manager Hera, Writer, Curator and Researcher Yu-Mei Balasingamchow, Designer Lim Shu Min, Sound Designer Ramesh Krishnan, Musicians Munir Alsagoff and Mohamed Noor, Web Developer Mao Yuncheng, and Advisors Laura Miotto and Dr. Paul Taylor and is supported by SPH Media Limited and National Library Board.

USSG55 Photo Exhibition: Overview

On April 4, 1966, the United States and Singapore established formal diplomatic relations, less than one year after Singapore became an independent nation. Americans, however, had been coming and going from the island since the British started a colonial trading port in 1819. First came missionaries and traders, then came companies that became household names, such as Citibank, Goodyear, and Ford.

After the Second World War, American culture was popular with young people in Singapore. Business and political relationships continued to grow. Today, more than 30,000 Americans live in Singapore, and the two countries have deep economic, cultural, and security ties. This photography exhibition captures some highlights of the 55 years of friendship, cooperation, and inspiration between the two countries.

See the full list of photos here: USSG55 Exhibition Photo List

Launch of the Virtual Photo Exhibition

Experience the virtual photo exhibition

The music for the website is an instrumental reinterpretation of America the Beautiful by Ray Charles, produced by three Singaporean musicians: sound designer Ramesh Krishnan, guitarist Munir Alsagoff on a classic Fender Telecaster, and percussionist Mohamed Noor on a handpan drum. The music incorporates the sounds of the seas, an American blues guitar style, and the multicultural handpan used in Singapore, evoking Singapore’s multicultural society and connection with the United States.

Culture in Action   

Although American music and movies seem to dominate Singapore’s popular culture today, there have been many moments of two-way cultural exchange over the years. In the 1950s, before many Singaporeans could easily and cheaply access American culture, the U.S. Information Service (USIS) at Raffles Place provided a library and reading room, as well as sponsored exhibitions and performances.  

Over the years, the American Association of Singapore, American Club, and Singapore American School have been instrumental in fostering cultural interactions between Americans and Singaporeans. Today, more than 30,000 Americans live in Singapore. American architects have left their mark on Singapore’s skyline. People from the two countries have played and competed in sports, enjoyed and created music and art together, and influenced each other’s views of the world. 

Musical Stars  

American music has long been popular in Singapore, from jazz in the pre-war years to disco, pop, rock, hip-hop and more today. In the 1960s, the U.S. Information Service held events for local musicians, such as a popular jazz series from 1963 to 1965 at the Victoria Concert Hall and Victoria Theatre. It also sponsored American musicians and singers to perform in Singapore.  

Singaporeans not only appreciated American music, they started performing and writing their own compositions. The 1960s saw a wave of commercially successful local bands who were inspired by American and British popular music. From the 1980s, Singaporean Margaret Leng Tan was a notable figure in the American avant-garde music scene, and other Singaporean musicians and bands later made their mark in fields like pop and rock. 


Diplomatic Connections 

The United States and Singapore have forged a close partnership on political, economic, security, and personal levels. In 2003, Singapore became the first country in Asia with which the United States signed a Free Trade Agreement. Since 1990, the two countries have had a Memorandum of Understanding facilitating U.S. forces’ access to Singapore’s military bases. This agreement was renewed in 2019 for another 15 years.  

The first official state visit between the two countries was in 1967, when U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson received Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. More recently, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made his first state visit to the United States in 2016, when he was honored by a White House state dinner, a first for Singapore. In 2021, Vice President Kamala Harris visited Singapore. 


Strength in Security Cooperation  

The United States and Singapore cooperate on security issues such as border security, maritime security, military preparedness, counter proliferation, cybersecurity, and counterterrorism. Singapore provides critical access for U.S. military units deployed to the region and hosts nearly 1,000 U.S. service members, civilians, and dependents. Singapore also has the second largest military presence in the United States of any foreign partner, with more than 1,000 Singaporean military personnel participating in training, exercises, and professional military education there.  

In recent years, Singapore has deepened its defense ties with the United States by renewing its 1990 MOU regarding U.S. use of military facilities in Singapore, as well as establishing a Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Fighter Training Detachment in Guam and finalizing an MOU on cyber cooperation.  


Doing Business Together  

Singapore is home to American companies both new and old. Some of the longest-standing American enterprises are banks and companies dealing in shipping, rubber, and petroleum that have been here for more than a century. American film distributors were also a strong presence in the years immediately before and after World War Two.  

The decades after the war saw a rise in American business and investment. Ford Motor Company was one of Singapore’s largest private employers, and in 1960, IBM installed Singapore’s first computer for the Central Provident Fund. Today, the United States is Singapore’s largest foreign investor. The Free Trade Agreement between the two countries supports 215,000 American jobs, and there are 4,200 American businesses in Singapore. 


1960s Singapore Through An American Lens 

George W. Porter was an American diplomat at the U.S. Embassy Singapore from 1965 to 1970. During his lunch hours and leisure time, he took photographs of everyday life, particularly the people and activities at the Singapore River, which was a short walk from the Embassy building at Hill Street.   

Before Porter’s death in 2015, he donated a number of prints to the National Archives of Singapore. They are an important record of the bygone life that once flourished in what is now Singapore’s Civic District. In 2015, the U.S. Embassy Singapore invited students at LASALLE College of the Arts in Singapore to propose responses to Porter’s images. The artworks were exhibited at the college from October 15 to November 5, 2015; a selection of three works is included here. 


Interview with George Porter's Children

Listen to George Porter’s children, Aaron and Elise, describe his camera and equipment from the 1960s (interviewed in 2021).

USSG55 Let's Learn Together!

Educational classroom activities designed in partnership with St Joseph’s Institution (Independent) for the USSG55 Photo Exhibition 

We hope you have enjoyed browsing the photos as much as we have. Wondering how you can use the photographs for some fun, learning activities? We have designed two activities just for you! Have fun! 

Activity #1

Photo Tableux

Photos captures a slice of time. What do you think happens next? Stage the next few scenes with your friends and make some photos!

Download PDF: USSG55_ClassroomActivity_PhotoTableaux

Download PPT: USSG55_ClassroomActivity_PhotoTableaux


Activity #2

Let’s Analyse a Photograph!

Art critics study works of art through a critical analysis of an artwork’s seemingly intangible aspects to help others understand them in more tangible ways. The Feldman Approach is a famous, four-step method consisting of (1) description, (2) formal analysis, (3) interpretation, and (4) judgement. Following this method allows one to express one’s analysis and understanding of the chosen work in a thorough and detailed manner.

Choose one of the photographs available in the collection and give the analysis a go!

Download PDF: USSG55_ClassroomActivity_PhotoAnalysis

Download PPT: USSG55_ClassroomActivity_PhotoAnalysis