Personal Opinions

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.

The In-Between Pauses

What makes a memory beautiful? Or Complete? Is it just the ones that are staged? Or does it also include the moments before and after the staged photos were taken?

Every family that goes on a vacation trip together will have two kinds of photo albums. The first always consist of the more photogenic pictures in an idyllic state. The second album is the one that never gets to see the light of the day. It's made up of the quieter in-between moments, forgotten as soon as it slides through the cracks. As for me, I just have a personal preference for the latter. It's much more telling, more honest and raw than the first album. It is these little pieces that completes the bigger picture. But often, it's not seen as very important because it's missing the beautiful smiles or the picturesque sunsets which means it either gets stored away in the memory chip or sent down to the trash bin.

So here I am, presenting to you a simple photo essay of my recent family vacation that hopes to eternalise the ever slightly imperfect or incomplete moments that we are so ready to discard away.

#Ephemera: New Experiences, Greater Heights

#Ephemera: New Experiences, Greater Heights

A pop-up exhibition called Ephemera for all kinds of working artists at The Substation on Armenian Street and it was organised by Invisible Photographer Asia. The idea of this exhibition is that it will only last for exactly 18000 seconds hence the name Ephemera which refers to something that you can only enjoy temporarily. 

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Weekly Grind: Part IX - What is Our Narrative?

Weekly Grind: Part IX - What is Our Narrative?

There are so many narratives on what makes Singapore, Singapore. Some are more dominant than others, forming a backbone to our collective identity. But there are also narratives with subtle nuances that makes the plot line goes on a completely different track. 

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Short Feature on The New York Times - Lens - Photography

A couple of weeks ago, I had submitted a photo of mine to a call-out submission from The New York Times - Lens - Photography Live video on Facebook where two of their staff photographers will go through the process of how they make some of their own iconic images. Subsequently, they will also go through the compositional aspects of the selected photographs submitted from the viewers and I am (still) very happy that mine was featured in the video above.

All the submissions were very strong and to hear the words that were said alongside with my photograph was the highest compliment that I have received so far. Please do check out the entire video to go through all the other amazing work and if you want to skip to my photograph right away, you can just jump over to 22:40 where they will talk about my photograph.


HOME: Where Nothing Stays The Same

This photo essay titled, "Home: Where Nothing Stays The Same" explores the sense of patriotism that underpins my relationship with our ever changing surrounding that we are made to call home. For me, home is a sentiment, or a feeling, that is always rooted down in the nostalgic familiarity. But when the constants are drowned out by the uninterrupted changes, it is hard to ascertain what is my relationship with this place again.

The speed of development is electric. The old is torn down and the new is rebuild. It feels like this country got to its 51st birthday in a hurried fashion; racing against the world, they say; leaving behind the memories in a daze while some others remains in a crisp sharp focus. It is hard to tell what's real and what's not when the world beneath our feet is altering so fast.