This photo by Lee Hsien Loong is a semantic genius

You’ve probably seen this innocent looking photo captured by the Prime Minister recently.

Having seen the Worker’s Party come together for a group photograph, he took a seemingly innocent, cheeky little photograph of them and posted it on his Facebook page.


It may seem to many a cute little photo. But to me at least, it was a work of art. And art is imbued with meaning.

Let me explain, but first here’s how the group photo looks like on the Worker’s Party page:


1.) He’s tearing away the magic and mysticism of the Worker’s Party

By showing you how it all works, the image is telling you that they’re human like any one else. They’re not some amazing dream team that will sweep Singapore by storm and solve all our national problems just by virtue of their street popularity.

2.) Behind the amazing group picture is just one lone photographer

We’re used to seeing the Workers Party thronged by crowds and people. But when it comes to the business of politics, this image shows them depending on the charity of one lone girl for the shot. To give contrast, PM Lee surrounds the same album with exciting images of groups of students, people and parents/wives coming to support the PAP MPs.

3.) It is the only black and white image amongst the other coloured images from the same album

Compared with the other exciting images in his (and other MPs albums) this one paints the image of cold and loneliness.


4.) Also contrasting with the other pictures taken on that day, the WP photo appears stiff and rehearsed 

The PAP is almost always accused of being the stiff, straight laced party. This image turns the tables on them.

5.) He’s taking the picture from a higher vantage point

That goes to tell the story of how he and the PAP are still in charge and overseeing it all.

6.) The photographer seems to be dressed in white – a symbol of the PAP

Perhaps she was wearing a light shade of any other colour. But by grayscaling the image, she appears to be wearing white. And that tells a story of how the PAP is still there to help the Worker’s Party.

7.) He’s shows magnanimity by giving the Workers Party some airtime on his Facebook page

8.) He demonstrates that he doesn’t feel threatened by their presence and even welcoming them


What other messages can you spot?


*Comment from reader: “..I notice that the pic he posted and the pic that WP posted are different in how the members in the pic are arranged… hmm… more meaning behind that as well?”


  1. Just some observations about your observations…
    Since we are talking about semantics, I should probably point out that a picture cannot be ‘a semantic genius’ (as in the title of the article) unless you are anthropomorphising it?
    1. Not sure about the ‘amazing dream team’ and ‘street popularity’ bits, if you take into account WP’s vote-share at the recent elections.
    2. The WP might get thronged in public spaces like hawker centres, but surely not at the Parliament on a working day? To be fair, the students in that picture you mentioned were volunteers and were there to support the event, NOT the PAP. And there were many photos posted by the WP MPs with their friends, family and supporters as well.
    3. Yup, agree.
    4. I don’t think the picture of the AMK GRC team was any less stiff/rehearsed? They are both formal shots, after all.
    5. Ok, agree.
    6. This is grasping at straws a bit too much…(btw nobody was dressed in party colors at the Parliament that day)
    7. If this is considered a magnanimous act, that’s quite sad coming from a head of state.
    8. Erm…ok.
    Conclusion: Slow news day.

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