Twilight, 7.33 pm 21 September 2013.
Twilight, 7.33 pm 21 September 2013.
Capturing the beautiful light after darkness has fallen, this time at 7.43 pm on 7 August 2013 at Lower Peirce Reservoir …
One of my favourite roads to walk down in Singapore has to be Niven Road. A fairly quiet street found off a fairly busy Selegie Road and at the foot of Mount Sophia and Mount Emily, it is one dominated but a beautiful row of conservation two-storey pre-war shophouses, several of which are still with the once fashionable pintu pagar (swinging bar doors). The street is also one which is very much associated with the Sikhs – a Sikh temple, the three-storey Khalsa Dharmak Sabha is found at its southern end, having been built on land on which a two storey temple was constructed in 1936. The street is one named after the first superintendent of the Botanic Gardens, Lawrence Niven, who served from 1860 to 1875, having been the supervisor of a adjacent nutmeg plantation (Niven was the man responsible for giving us much of the garden’s layout which is still intact today). The street is one which also does connect me with a time forgotten – one of the business found on the street is K. Ratna Sports – a sporting goods shop which was located at Bencoolen Street up to the early 1980s. It was one I always looked out for from as I passed on the bus on the way to school at Bras Basah Road.
A view from the lookout point along one of the more scenic roads in Singapore, Mandai Road at 7.43 pm on 4 August 2013. The view is one in which the foreground is partially illuminated by the street lamps, with the rest of what’s in the picture, lit by ambient light, captured through a fairly long exposure. The lookout point, provides some picturesque views of Upper Seletar Reservoir, and is one of my favourite scenic spots in SIngapore, having first taken in the views at the end of the 1960s.
While a storm sweeping in at dawn does usually bring with it a muted celebration of the new day, the effort to catch the break of day is sometimes rewarded with a surprise as it was today when the storm clouds parted to reveal a spectacular view of the coloured light of sunrise filtering through the darkness …
Light after dark at 7.44 and 7.50 pm on 7 July 2013 taken at Upper Seletar Reservoir.
Thinking about what or who from the 1960s did serve as an inspiration as part of the themed challenge for this year’s Singapore Blog Awards, it dawned upon me that for some reason, many of the figures I have looked up to at some point in my life who featured in the 1960s either wore masks or moustaches (sometimes both). There were times when I would probably have wanted very much to imitate their appearances, but it wouldn’t have been just my inhibitions that would have prevented me from doing so – a lack of facial hair does prevent me cultivating some of the more exotic moustaches that my heroes seemed to wear. Plus, that more recent attempt by a certain cabinet minister to dress like that rapier wielding masked hero, Zorro, I did look up to as a child in public, does make me feel a lot less inclined to do an imitation.
Imitation of appearances aside, one particular mustachioed figure who I often find myself wishing to imitate (his depictions of flies aside), is one for whom the swinging sixties went much further than marking Z rapier cuts on defeated villains and represented a particularly creative period in his life. The figure – with his flamboyant wisp of facial hair which is said to be styled after that of a Spanish artist Diego Velázquez and an artist in his own right, is the somewhat eccentric Salvador Dalí.
Known for the somewhat bizarre surrealist expressions of his inner workings, it wasn’t the surreal or peculiar side of him I would have got to know early on in life. Dalí is of course the man being the logo for a brand of lollipops, Chupa Chups, which was to take Singapore by storm in the 1970s – which might have explained the frequent visits I had to make to Pegu Road dental clinic as a schoolboy.
It is however in Dalí’s more bizarre expressions that I have held a fascination for since my encounters with them later in life. It is through them that I see Dalí very much as an artistic genius and a source of creative inspiration (which perhaps explains my bizarre behavioural tendencies), for whom that fine line that is said to lie between genius and insanity doesn’t exist.
It is in one particular work that was executed at the end of the 1960s, The Hallucinogenic Toreador, where I did find much of that insane genius. A large scale and somewhat mystical piece I had the pleasure of viewing during a visit I just had to make when I found myself in the U.S. to the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida in the summer of 1989, The Hallucinogenic Toreador is one where we see many of the images which he seems to constantly replicate in his work. The images are ones which are depicted with great symbolism, offer insights into the artist’s life and his experience of life, his inner thoughts, as well as his obsessions and fears – presented in a way that could only have come out of that hallucinogenic state of mind he is often said to go deep into.
One of the images we do often see repeated is a somewhat insignificant figure of a little boy. The boy is one Dalí uses to represent himself in his youth and is one who bears witness to much of his work and his journey. It is that image that I often find myself relating to – I do have that little boy in me who bears witness to much of my own life’s journey.
The seemingly incomprehensible world we do see in much of Dalí does often have me attempting to see the world as how the artist’s might see it. The world is after all an incomprehensible place made comprehensible by only how society would have us see it. What Dalí does somehow tell me is to look beyond all that and to see what is around me and all else as he did see time through a melted piece of cheese. Looking a piece of Camembert has certainly never been the same for me – I stop to take a second look before gobbling down what is one of my favourite cheeses. While it is not the bizarre I seek to show in capturing the experiences which make up my life, through words and photographs – I do stop to ask myself if that is indeed a melted timepiece that I am able to see somewhere in it.
This post is written as a submission for the themed challenge for the Singapore Blog Awards 2013 for which I am a finalist in the Panasonic Best Photography Blog category. If as a reader you do feel that the blog is deserving of the award, I would be most grateful for your kind voting support – reader’s votes do count for 30% of the scoring. To vote, registration (and account activation via an email you will receive upon registration) would required. Voters do stand a chance to win some prizes. Following activation, you may vote for finalists of your choice for each of the ten main categories, seven special categories and two celebrity categories, once a day (calendar day based on Singapore time). For more on what the use of photography means to me, do visit a previous post “Come Walk with Me …“.
I started this blog back in January 2008, intending it as a means for me to take a walk back through my life’s journey. That was some two months into a working stint in Penang which in reminding me of a Singapore I had long forgotten, triggered a deluge of memories of my younger days in a gentler Singapore I had a most wonderful time growing up in which were locked up in me.
It was then that I decided on trying to capture my experiences in life, moments not just of my happy childhood, but also the many stops I made on life’s long journey – a blog seemed a good enough way of doing this, allowing me to capture the many impressions made on me of both past and present. A collection of posts related to the early chapters of my life can be found on “The Singapore of My Younger Days”.
The blog has evolved over the years, and has very much been associated with the use of photography, twice being named as the Best Photography Blog at the Singapore Blog Awards and being shortlisted as a finalist for the award at this year’s edition. Photography was never intended as the focus of the blog, nor do I describe myself as a photographer, although photography is a medium I used to help in telling my story. Photographs are to me not just about capturing beautiful or perfect images, but are also a powerful visual means that can be used to convey mood and emotion, a sense of time and place, and a wonderful way to capture the moment and the passing of time.
It is the consequence of the passage of time I am constantly confronted with in my attempt to connect with my memories, in particular, the rapidly changing landscapes in an island nation which has not stopped to pause in its race to modernise. It is perhaps a regret that I have that I did not think of harnessing this means – which I did have at my disposal, to previously do this, and I set out to also capture the present not just to connect with the past, but also as it will inadvertently become the past.
Capturing time, place and the moment on my journeys out of Singapore.
It is in doing just this, that I am also able to celebrate the wonderful experience I have of living in a Singapore that for me, has more to offer than its bright lights, glossy new icons, busy shopping malls, and eating places that the good folks in our tourism board seem to want to sell above all else. It is however far beyond the tourist view of Singapore, where the real Singapore is to be found, a gentler world in which the rich diversity of cultures and traditions which made Singapore what it was before the modern city took over can still be discovered. A collection of post in which I celebrate Singapore can be found at “Celebrating Singapore”.
Celebrating the arts and entertainment scene in Singapore.
The journey taken with this blog, has been one that is a very enriching one, and one in which I have learned a lot more about myself and my roots in Singapore. The blog has also provided many opportunities for me to broaden my view of and experience of life, including the many new and valuable friendships made with the many I have met along the way. I am also grateful that it has given me the opportunity to share my impressions and memories through various channels. One is the Singapore Memory Project, a project which aims to collect the many memories we as Singaporeans have of living in Singapore.
Capturing the many facets of Singapore.
I have also been provided with the rare opportunity to exhibit some of my photographs at two recent National Heritage Board (NHB) exhibitions. The first, was a small photo exhibition I was able to curate on the last days of the railway through Singapore, “First Journeys, Last Goodbyes“. This was held as part of the Motoring Heritage Weekend at Tanjong Pagar Railway Station in September 2012 and involved a collection of photographs contributed by the community, including some of my own.
The other contribution I made was to an exhibition that is currently being held at the National Museum of Singapore, “Trading Stories: Conversations with Six Tradesmen“. For this I put together a series of photographs which offers my impressions of how spaces in which some of the early traders thrived have been transformed.
One thing that I hope that the blog can help in doing is in raising awareness on the lesser publicised issues which in celebrating Singapore, I am often put in touch with. One issue in which the blog did help in raising awareness on was on the proposal to preserve the rail corridor as a green corridor in 2011. More recently, posts relating to two religious National Monuments which are badly in need of funds for repairs, did help bring the plight of the monuments to the attention of the mainstream media. The two posts relate to the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd and the Church of Sts Peter and Paul, the two oldest Catholic churches in Singapore, on which reports in the mainstream media soon followed.
This year’s edition of the Singapore Blog Awards sees some excellent photography blogs. However, if as a reader you do feel that the blog does match up or exceed the standards of the blogs it is up against at this years award, I would be most grateful for your kind voting support – reader’s votes do count for 30% of the scoring. To vote, registration (and account activation via an email you will receive upon registration) would required. Voters do stand a chance to win some prizes. Following activation, you may vote for finalists of your choice for each of the ten main categories, seven special categories and two celebrity categories, once a day (calendar day based on Singapore time).
This post wouldn’t be complete without me giving a shout-out to some the very good bloggers with who I have become friends with or who have been loyal supporters. These are:
For me, the story of Singapore is very a reflection of the way in which what we call Marina Bay today, has been transformed. Once the harbour at the heart of Singapore’s early success, the bay, like it or hate it, is today a magnificent sight to behold – particularly at certain times of the day, and a celebration of the tremendous strides Singapore has taken as a nation since the tumultuous events which surrounded a somewhat reluctantly achieved independence.
The so-called bay itself (now a fresh water reservoir) and the developments that have taken root around it, was an afterthought made possible by massive land reclamation works which were started in the early 1970s – initially to provide land for a road which would bypass the already congested city (more information on which can be found in a previous post “The Making of Marina Bay“). While it did result in the disappearance of the old harbour – one of the things which did make Singapore, Singapore, it did provide new land for development. It is perhaps because of this, it became possible to widen the scope for conservation of Singapore’s built heritage, particularly in areas of the old city such as in the Tanjong Pagar / Chinatown area and other areas which had previously been earmarked for redevelopment .
The light after dark at 7.35 pm on 28 May 2013 on Pulau Ubin, an island off northeast Singapore.
An attempt to capture the beautiful light as darkness falls at 7.42 pm on 19 May 2013 at Lower Peirce Reservoir.
Once again, I found myself seeking the peace and joy of the twilight at Lower Peirce Reservoir away from the crowds on a Saturday evening, and have these two photographs taken in the semi-darkness with just enough light in the sky to permit both the sky and the surroundings to be evenly exposed. The photographs were taken at about half an hour after sundown, the first at 7.37 pm and the second at 7.43 pm.
The Singapore of my wonderful childhood, was one that was very different to the one I now find myself waking up to. It was one where we could find pleasure not in the clutter of the pompous paraphernalia we now seek to embrace, but in a simplicity we can no longer find beauty in. It was a world of places marked not by the cold hard stare of concrete, glass and steel that had rendered them faceless, but one where escapes could be found in the unique charms of places that even today, we seek to forget.
It is in a world we have forgotten, that I have come to enjoy a peaceful moment in. It is a world which in being seemingly far removed from the cold, grey and unfamiliar world that has grown around me; I take great joy having a moment in quiet solitude in. It is also one in which I find a sanity that can no longer be found in the Singapore I struggle to feel at home in. The world is one which will soon change. A change necessary, as we are told, for the small island we call home to move forward. A change which, as with the many changes we have been forced to accept, we will surely look back at with regret.
This year’s North-East Monsoons has brought us lots of rain, so much so that the sky at dawn has more often than not been covered in a pall of grey cloud with spectacular shows of colour at sunrise being very much a rarity this month. The pall did seem to lift the last two mornings which did result with two very different and unusual celebrations of the new day:
I often find myself by the sea in a place that seems forgotten. It is here that, despite it having lost much of the charm it once exuded, one does still find a semblance of the old and gentler world we have chosen to discard. It is also where it often is a joy to take the start of the new day in, free from the distraction of the urban world that now does not seem far away. Sitting by the old crumbling sea wall, the reflection of the changing hues of daybreak off the gentle undulations of the sea brings not just that moment of magic that precedes the rising of the sun, but also a sense of calm that is hard to find in a world now dominated by the cold of steel and concrete. Every moment of magic is one to celebrate as if it were the last – the winds that bring with it the change that until now this world escaped seem not far away. It is a matter of time before it does arrive bringing a world with it in which the calm that I now seek may be a calm that will never again be found.
I have, of late, stolen moments alone, moments in which I am able to wander at the break of day along a forgotten shore. In the calm of the morning, it is the song that is sung in the greeting that the sea gives the shore that I hear, a tune that takes me to a time I might otherwise have forgotten. As I listen, the lightening of the sky reveals the shore which except for the signs of human interventions of a not so recent past, is one that is untamed. The shore is one that wears textures painted by the meeting of water with a litter of sand, wood and stone. It exudes a beauty that only few can see, a beauty that finds no place in the manicured world we now embrace. I sometimes spot a figure dancing through the wash. In the face of the figure it is my face that I often see, my face not of today, but of a yesterday of three decades past. As I take the walk the figure takes, I find myself walking back to once familiar shores, shores that although distant, are close by through a familiarity of sight. I am grateful to still be able today to take these walks yesterday, taking each as if it were a last. The next may be a walk into tomorrow. And with tomorrow, the forgotten shore and the distant shores that I am reminded of, will be ones that will certainly be forgotten.
One of the things that strikes you about Hong Kong, is the unabashed celebration of ostentatious opulence on display. It is Hong Kong at its most glitzy, where labels having made their mark in the western capitals have found not just a home, but have become an inseparable part of the heart and soul of what Hong Kong is. Hong Kong is in fact where the labels seem to belong, thriving on a thirst for luxury that is driven very much by the pursuit of wealth as a means to measure success and happiness that makes Hong Kong, Hong Kong. It is in Hong Kong where there are more Gucci and Hermes outlets than there are in the world’s capital of haute couture, Paris, where every other shop seems to be one that offers the flamboyance of a Louis Vuitton or a Chanel, or one that glitters with the gold and diamonds of the many jewellery shops that illuminate the streets and malls. Nowhere is there such an enormous concentration of displays of luxury watches and mobile phones. This is even more startling walking through Harbour City shopping mall in Tsim Sha Tsui, where there seems to be nothing but shops that seem to speak of nothing but money.
I guess this is what seems to define Hong Kong, and while the objects of desire are unattainable to many, it is somehow a side of Hong Kong that thrives, alongside the traditional trades, markets and street vendors that share the streets with the glamour. This is perhaps what makes Hong Kong interesting, and what gives it a buzz that draws visitors from all around the world.
Perhaps one of the reasons that Hong Kong embraces the show of wealth with such gusto is the fact that many do not see the need to enslave themselves to the car, as it is the case in Singapore. The excellent public transport network that again combines new and old to good effect, the ultra modern MTR and the traditional means such as the Star Ferry, tramways, minibuses and taxis seem to work hand in hand in transporting the millions around. While we do see cars and particularly many Bentleys and Rolls Royces alongside the Nissans and Toyotas, it is considered expensive to own one: high taxes on cars and petrol, and the need to buy or lease a parking space at a home or in the city at high prices seems to make one more of a luxury than a Gucci or Louis Vuitton, many Hong Kongers have chosen to dispense with one. That parking spaces are highly priced (as are highly prized) is probably best seen in a conversation that I had with a Canadian expatriate whilst on the tram from Causeway Bay to Central. The Canadian who had been in Hong Kong for fifteen years described how recently, parking lots in one particular development that were sold came with a free gift … a brand new car!
Whatever it is, it is nice to be able to wander down the streets and take in the lavish surroundings – it is certainly a unique experience, one that somehow gives me a feeling that I am amongst those that have attained the holy grail of life … happiness …. albeit only for that moment I am standing in the glow that the glitter of Hong Kong has cast on me …