Searching for Singapore II

I usually have 2 cameras with me during a photo-walk.

The previous post was with my stealthy Olympus XA2 loaded with Ilford XP2 400 film, while this is a Summicron 50mm Type II Rigid on a Leica M6 loaded with Kodak Portra 400.

I sometimes go all Daido Moriyama with my Olympus XA2 (or I try, at least), while with the Leica, I get that understated Martin Parr social commentary look (or I try, at least).

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So that’s the flat visible from Bras Basah Complex, my favourite haunt since when I was a teenager as it’s the place to go to for secondhand books.

I took an Irish colleague there once and he said quite accurately that he could see that Bras Basah Complex was a formative part of my education.

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Good old civil defence!

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Singapore, along with its many historical landmarks, are works under construction.

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That’s just outside the Arts House. I supposed you could call this commissioned graffiti.

“If You Dream Too Long” calls to mind If We Dream Too Long, the title of a novel by the late Goh Poh Seng. I met him once at a literary festival.

The author of yet another great Singaporean novel, Heartland,  Daren Shiau, once told he admires the writings of Goh a lot. Heartland is many ways a response to If We Dream Too Long. Read these two books if you want to know Singapore.

Yes, yes, that’s my inner Singaporean literature nerd emerging.

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That’s outside Ngee Ann City, a very appropriately named shopping complex because it’s so gigantic.

Yes, the humongous bookstore Kinokuniya Books is in there. It’s a place I go to for inspiration.

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The stone lion outside Ngee Ann Complex, representing prosperity and all the good stuff and guarding all that conspicuous wealth inside the shopping mall.

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That’s the ice-cream uncle at Orchard Road. I’ll usually buy a durian ice-cream wrapped in bread from him. It costs all of SGD$1. Pretty amazing.

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That’s “Urban People”, the art sculpture in front of Ion Orchard, delighting tourists always.

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We’re always being framed by brand names at Orchard Road, with fashion models watching over us, reminding us of what we could be if only we’re willing to spend just a little bit more …

Thanks for reading!

Searching for Singapore I

I’ve been living and working outside of Singapore for many years now, and every time I return, I’m reminded that I’ll never truly return to the Singapore I know.

It’s like that quote from Heraclitus – you’ll never step into the same river twice. It’s never the same river, and you’re never the same you.

My long-suffering wife knows of my street photography obsession (passion). She understands (bless her!) that I get cranky sometimes and need to go away for a while for an afternoon or two whenever we’re in Singapore.

I can’t help but walk around with my camera(s) with a sense of both recognition and alienation.

That’s the “chwee kueh” (water rice cake, according to Wikipedia) hawker auntie at the market near my place, where I also satisfy my cravings for “chai tow kway” (fried carrot cake) and “char kway teow” (unhealthy rice noodles with black sauce, pork fat, pork lard and cockles).

I have a mental checklist of food to tick off every time I’m in Singapore, such as satay, mee siam, mee rebus, hor fun…

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That’s the uncle who for some reason, prefers to sleep at the void deck on most afternoons.

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The above are homely scenes for me, while some of the scenes below remind me how commodified Singapore has become.

That’s a tourist, who, for some reason decides to lie down and take a nap near the Merlion Park.

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That’s another tourist … every time I am here I am reminded of how Singapore is a place for tourists… I wonder how many Singaporeans actually come here to take photographs …

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That’s at Waterloo Street, where you could find a street bazaar.

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And of course, that was the Chinese New Year period. Huat ah!

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And lion dance performances can really be mesmerizing…

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This is Ion Orchard, the shopping mall at Orchard Road.

And there’s something about the architecture that puts together celebrity culture with consumer culture.

We’re all encouraged to shop like celebrities.

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Sometimes we “relac one corner” (relax) and claim a little space for ourselves.

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And maybe we’ll find something meaningful after all …

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This is “Searching for Singapore I”. Part Two, in full colour, will arrive in due time.

Thanks for reading!

London Street Photography II

From my London folder again…

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I was happy to have caught this gesture…

He’s framed by various pictures, and there’s a statement here to be made about the idealised/commodified/cosmetic appearances of the pictures vs his heartfelt sincerity. Check out the arrow that’s about to pierce his heart.

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The British Museum … it’s difficult to photograph such an iconic place because you know it has been done so many times…

I chose the seemingly unthinking approach: capture it at any angle and it’ll still look wonderful. Kudos to the architects…

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Here’s a museum interior that plays with religious icons … there’s definitely a connection between religious devotion and museum space.

In a way, we’re here to worship art and/or the past.

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At the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Here’re the acolytes …

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I’m a tourist!

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A busy scene with the seated person as a focal point, at the still point of the turning world …

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“At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.”

(T. S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton”, The Four Quartets)

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Thanks for reading!

London Street Photography

These were taken from a London trip some time ago with my trusty now classic Canon G11.

I’ve been looking through my folders and was actually surprised to realize I had been doing street photography without really knowing that was what it was.

These are all shots taken in-between vacation family pictures when I thought the combination of people and scene looked interesting.

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Selfies (with a nod to Samuel Beckett)

These are photographs of me, or of how I see…

We’re all shackled in one way or another, waiting for our little godots…

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I’m Estragon the poet…

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Is He arriving? Godot is always late.

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I wait and I wait …

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And I wait …

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Like Vladimir the thinker, I keep myself informed …

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I want a branded watch to tell me I am a lucky Pozzo…

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Am I a cookie-cutter person with cookie-cutter dreams and desires…

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Or can I be my own work of art, recognizable to myself…

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I want to be Lucky, my favorite beer…

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I want to be forever on the move… forever arriving with the goods…

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and then I’ll be happy-go-lucky…

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