Tag: Tay Kay Chin

Picturing Home, Wherever We May Be

18 of the 20 TwentyFifteen covers. Designed by Jonathan Yuen of ROOTS.
18 of the 20 TwentyFifteen covers. Designed by Jonathan Yuen of ROOTS.

Wherever we go, we carry pictures of home.

Framed up, wedged in a wallet, on a phone, shared online, etched in our minds—we hang on to these references that remind us of where we’ve come from.

It’s been almost two years since I’ve last seen Singapore. Away from home, all I’ve had apart from my own pictures are those from the news and what friends and family share online—snapshots of how home has grown through the lenses of my fellow citizens.

Marina Bay with its iconic “integrated resort” has overshadowed the Singapore River’s line of shophouses and skyscrapers as the shorthand for the nation’s success. Our list of old places has matured beyond colonial relics to include modernist complexes and even the iconic dragon playground. The index for the city’s pace of development is no longer the skyline of towering cranes, but how crowded our trains and streets have become.

The frames Singaporeans use to look at their home are changing. It shows in the subjects we picture, but also in what photography means to us today. Is picturing a Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian still the quintessential portrait of Singapore society? When did photographing and shaming online become our way of handling outrageous acts we encounter in public? Should photos of our nation’s late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew be restricted from public use?

These questions capture some of the issues Singapore faces today. Pictures of home are not just illustrations but also reflections of who we are, projections of how we see the world, and symbols of our community. A photograph’s flat surface belies its third dimension: as a platform for discussions on the people, places and things that matter to each one of us.

This social element is what defines contemporary photography. Making a picture is not just framing a subject and pressing the camera shutter (or in today’s case, tapping a screen), but also sharing it with others—a process that envelopes pictures with meanings beyond just the photographer’s point of view.

This is how our pictures of home are made: through the conversations we share about what we see, what we remember seeing, and even what we hope to see. While the realities depicted in pictures will one day fade or even be challenged, the meanings they hold for each one of us is what helps us see home clearly, wherever we may be.

A essay written for the upcoming TwentyFifteen.SG The Exhibition at Esplanade.

Advocating Journalism, Advocacy Journalism

After embarking on the interesting option of publishing my final-year journalism project online last year, it was heartening to see the junior batch take their projects online too. While I love my printed newspaper, there is no doubt that the future of journalism must go online in some way. On a personal level, it’s also an excellent platform to ensure your project doesn’t get forgotten in the archives, but remains out there to be Googled on as and when the topic becomes relevant.

Kababayan: Faces of Filipinas in Singapore is a photojournalism project by Kong Yen Lin and Nura Ling that puts a new face to the Filipino women migrant community in Singapore. Long regarded as just here to work as domestic maids, Filipinas who come to Singapore today increasingly span different classes and occupations including designers, businesswomen, nurses and teachers. It is an impressive depth of work that uses multimedia slideshows and photo essays to bring you through the life of some 16 Filipinas living and working in Singapore. It would have been even more impressive with better editing though, especially in the multimedia slideshows. There’s just a bit too much going on to keep me watching till the end.

Food Waste Republic is an investigative journalism piece that looks at food wastage in Singapore through feature stories, multimedia slideshows and quotes from experts. Readers are also encouraged to interact with the project by submiting photos to the “Food Waste Police”. The team of Estelle Low, Miak Aw and Chen Wei Li have really put in a lot of effort, even going through people’s rubbish to document the extent of the problem. While surfing the website, one thing that kept going off in my mind was, where does journalism end and advocacy start? I wondered if this project is a campaign to reduce food wastage rather than a journalism piece, especially with snazzy look of the website and the attempt to ‘police’ food wastage. But then, is there a difference between the two? Shouldn’t all journalists care a lot about the topic they write for?

On this note about caring and journalism I like to point to an encouraging initiative going in my alma mater: Photojournalism@NTU. I’m not sure if it’ll become an annual event, but photojournalism students this year got a chance to showcase their works and meet fellow photojournalists and editors in the industry in this networking session. I saw a lot of great work out there — all photo essays about Singapore. The current instructor, Tay Kay Chin, has promised to continue pushing these young photojournalists to point their lenses at what’s going on here instead of exotic foreign lands. I really agree that there are too many stories untold here.

And after seeing all the work of these young journalists, I wondered why is it that our local newspapers remain so staid? Whether it is in terms of topics, or the medium, one finds it hard to consistently detect the vigour as seen in these students’ works. There is good news, especially for photojournalists. When asked about photojournalism’s place in The Straits Times during the session, its photo editor said that a micro-site was coming up soon on ST’s website that will showcase multimedia slideshows and photo essays from their photojournalists. They may accept works from the public too.

Other than that, I’m not confident anything else is really going to change. For one, the people right up there making decisions have been there for years (Sumiko Tan wrote about her jubilee at the organisation in today’s Sunday Times, and she’s not the only one, nor the longest). And, without competition here, hardly anything changes as my research on ST’s newspaper redesign has shown.

For me, the saddest part about all this is not that I may never get to read a great Singaporean newspaper. But, I may never see these young journalists’ byline beyond their final-year projects because they gave up chasing stories for a paper that will never showcase them in a manner that they truly deserve.