A Familiar Wilderness

Immigration is the hot word nowadays and this personal project was my way of tracing back my own roots and identity.

My maternal great-grandfather was a riskshaw puller that came to Singapore all the way from China in the 1900s. When the Japanese came and started targeting the Chinese community, he gave away his daughter, who was my grandmother, to be raised by a Malay family for her own safety. 24 years ago, my mother lost her birth certificate when we were moving houses. Together with the document, her real Chinese name was also lost forever. So for as long as I could remember, we only called her by the Malay name that was given to her by the family who adopted her. It felt like a part of our history, a part of my identity, was lost together with the birth certificate. So much was embedded into those letters that made up into her name.

My paternal grandmother, on the other hand, fled to Singapore from Malaysia after divorcing her husband in the 1930s and also to seek refuge from the oncoming Japanese troops during the war. She raised her four children all on her own during and after the difficult Japanese occupation.
It wasn't easy to get any information about our family history out of her though. For her, the past is often associated with the pain that she had to endure as a result of the divorce in a challenging period for the country. Very rarely would she speak about our home or the estranged family ties in Malaysia. And today, my father, the eldest of the four children and the only one with living memory of life across the border, is the sole gatekeeper of all those stories. But just like his mother, he, too, would like to bury away the pain right where it belongs - in the past.

So whenever I return to Malaysia, I always felt a strange connection to the land. Half of it was filled with thoughts that I could have been raised here if it wasn't for a single twist in fate. But even if there is a small part of home that still lingers here, it only existed a long time back, too far away in the past for me to rekindle any sense of belonging to it. So despite still having some familiarity left in me towards this land, it all feels like a complete wilderness at the end of the day.
And the photographs from this series aim to show just that. The longing for what had been lost. The emptiness from what could never be returned again. Hopefully it could also serve as a closure for the long search of my own distant past.

100km For Refugees Winter Aid [Documentation]

On the 18th of January, I documented a fellow Singaporean, Mr Tahar Jumaat or TJ as he prefers to be called, complete a gruelling 100km around the country. This initiative was to raise funds for a winter aid that will be delivered to the refugees who are currently stranded on Greek islands in the midst of the ongoing harsh cold season. When the campaign officially closed yesterday on the 31st of January, a total of SGD25,642.88 had been raised.

This photo essay aims to depict the long hours and limits of human endurance in completing a cause that is much bigger than oneself.

This assignment was on behalf of the local national publication, Berita Minggu.


Looking back at the past 12 months, I can only say one thing: what a year it has been.

The rules in life are simple. First, make each year the best year of my life to date. And then secondly, make every year better than the previous year. So because of that, 2016 was a hundred times better than 2015 which, at that time, was already a very good year for me too.

But this has not made me forgotten that to be able to explore and understand the world is a privilege many do not have. That is why I try to balance it out by using the opportunities I had to give back to the people around me. Instead of traveling for leisure, I carried on searching for stories to tell from every possible corner of this globe. Stories that helped to raise awareness, fund a campaign or even support a wider and bigger cause than just about me.
I count myself lucky to be able to accomplish this.

Hence, after 13 destinations and a total of 8 months being abroad, I have compiled all of my photography work into a 7 minute show reel. Yes, my work is my life. So I hope that you will enjoy this simple compilation that I have put together.

And lastly, to all of you who have been with me on my journey in one form or another, thank you all so much for the memories. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Trying Not To Forget

I haven't posted anything in here for almost a week because I have been, somewhat, struggling to come to terms with my own distant reality. The truth is that when I first started sharing these stories on my social media platforms, I shared it because I want to start a conversation among my circle of friends. I wanted to raise awareness through stories that humanise people who seems to be so far away from us. To put a face to their stories. But over time, that reason slowly changed. Recently, I started posting stories more because I do not want to forget them instead. It is more for me than it is meant for you. So this becomes like a diary that I can look back many years down. There were moments when I panic if I had forgotten someone's name or a particular flow of a story. I would desperately scramble through my memories for that loose and missing piece. So I tried my best to keep up with this. But I am afraid to stop thinking about them. I don't know what would happen if it comes to that.

I feel like that could be the worst thing that can happen to anyone searching for hope - to be forgotten.

Idomeni, Greece | 2016

To Aylan Kurdi, We Are Sorry

Ritsona, Athens, 2016.

Today marks a year since the death of Aylan Kurdi. As much we want to say that things have now gotten better for everyone, we simply can't. And I am sorry. We should all be. We tried not to let your death go to waste and turn it into lesson for all of us to learn from, no matter how painful it was. But the war that ousted you from your home continues on like an unquenchable wildfire. While on the European shores, many more lands in your footstep with hopes to find a safe haven when the borders are already closed. "What safe haven?"

When images of you, lying lifelessly with a still heart, started to circulate around, an army of free spirited and kind hearted souls descended upon the very same beach that your body was found on. They tried everything and gave their best. They left a dent on ever life that they touched, surely. But now this army is thinning from within. Overwhelmed. Opinions have been shifted, emotions running high and fear has been fanned even further. Exhaustion and fatigue is almost triumphing.

Things have not moved forward. Maybe we have regressed backwards instead.

I am sorry that we haven't found any answers yet.