This is possibly the longest post I’ve ever written as I have more than 37 drafts for this so pay attention and try to keep up(:
A month passed, my dream ended and I am back in Singapore.
Honest to god, I wanted to blog every day for the past month but the connection in Indonesia is well… Let’s not use the word atrocious shall we?
I’ve lived through some really amazing experiences during the past month.
I could probably come up with a book of my stories which I am going to for my final year project but for this post, I really want to talk about the most wonderful camp I’ve ever attended.
It has been exactly a month now since the ASEAN Youth cultural camp ended.
November 26th. The night we fell in love.
A month ago this day was the final night. The gala performance where everyone showed a small audience what we learnt and did for the past 6 days.
As I close my eyes, it’s like replaying a video. The best video ever.
All the photojournalist of the camp -me included had an exhibition where we printed works of what we shot throughout the camp. I tried to capture the spirit of the people living in Magalang.
Or at least that was the idea I presented and printed. I am happy with works, I had not been happy for a while now considering I did not exactly shoot a lot.
So to see the final four prints was just such amazing feeling despite having a huge breakdown of stress overload some 4 hours before the performance but let’s leave that to the Alice Diary.
Then there was a fusion of music -nothing like I’ve ever heard before.
And the dance, jesus the dance.
I really lack the words to describe how brilliant the night was.
And I wish you guys could hear them in person. I mean I recorded the entire thing down but nothing beats hearing the magic live.
Yes, I use the word photojournalist now and I am proud to have stood among other photojournalists from the ASEAN region.
Some were already shooting for newspapers and to think that I shot and had an exhibition alongside them is just such an incredible feeling!
To tell the truth, I was really surprised that I was even chosen for this camp as I was in a ‘slump period’ of my photography. I was never good enough, I hit a wall and I was getting frustrated all the time. I was not shooting enough and for a tiny bit of the last months, I thought I lost it.
It was that bad.
It was a terrifying thing to show my works to the other delegates from Singapore and I almost died when I heard that they wanted to use my works as part of the country presentation as it will be shown to all the participants of the camp. HailMary
However, my passion for photography was really refuelled by the other photojournalist I met. For some of the photojournalist delegates, I hardly understood what they said and we communicated via improvised sign language. But when it came to photography, our language was light and there was no miscommunication whatsoever. We exchanged tips, woke up at an ungodly hour of the morning, laughed, danced, sung together…
In the end, between my camera and I, time stops and nothing else matters. All that’s left are the moments forever frozen in time and the memories that will shape my life as a photojournalist.
As mentioned in the last post (or at least, I think I did) I feel that Singapore is a county that is developing its own unique fusion culture -and that was exactly what we presented for our country presentation, Fusion.
A fusion of my images on Singapore, a Malay, Indian and Chinese sounding music and dance by my fellow insect swatters -Norhaizard and Qing Lun.It was a little intimidating watching them perform as they are so good in their art. I mean they have been at it for many many years while my images feature 2 years of my work which was a pretty far cry as compared to them.
In any case,
I was just blown away when Qing Lun played the dizi because that instrument had a completely different sound in my mind and I never liked it. In actual fact, the Dizi is really not that bad at all. I mean you can get away playing Lady Gaga’s song on it.
Like all my madcap adventures, I had to try everything. So I played the dizi as well(:
Actually, it was more like blowing… *Failed dizi player!*
The guy in the photo is the Vietnamese musician, Yan/ Yam (I am so bad with names >.<)
He plays the Erhu and he was really cute because his English gets him nowhere while his Mandarin was as good as than mine so it was really interesting holding a conversation with him.
Think- lots of smiling, nodding and yeses.
My, Vietnam’s head of delegate (Pronounced as MEE) is born in the year of the cat<3
The one holding the fan is my chicken mother Urusaya, the Thai head delegate<3
Love them so much!
Norhaizard was really good with his dance as well and I was pretty impressed as prior to meeting him, I did not know anyone who was doing traditional dances. Let’s face it, I’ve never watched a Chinese wayang opera in my entire miserable ignorant life.
And there was the head Delegate, Mr Quek who did a really brilliant job of pulling the team together!
While we were there, I finally fulfilled my partial wish of planting a tree for an organization or in this case for my beloved country -Singapore!
Tiny problem comes when none of us actually planted a tree before so, unlike the other countries who dug the hole and put the tree in within minutes, Singapore… Well, let’s just say we took our time…
I fondly remember a night, Day 5 where there were dance and music playing on the first floor while I tried to sleep because ALL the photojournalists had to get up at 3 am in the morning to get a shot of the sunrise in Borobudur.
Not that I’m complaining, the music is beautiful. A fusion of musical instruments from the different ASEAN region and my 16-year-old Philippine roommate’s voice.
My brilliant little sister, Cris. I am not much of a big sister to her.
Given that I really need to sort out my life before becoming anyone’s big sister.
Still, I try my best and as I teach her the songs of my country and the songs that I used to sing, it is hard not to stop and marvel at how pure and gorgeous her voice is. And just like the little sister I never had, she would shower me with her pure angelic voice from the heavens. She has so much talent and so much to offer the world that she does not even know of and can be absolutely anything she wants and will be so brilliant.
Cross my heart, big sister style.
Her Lovely voice!
Then we have Toei.
I have 2 shots for the image above. Both at a 15 seconds exposure. She had no clue I was shooting and all the while I was just going Hail Mary because my camera was not on a tripod but on a stone as I did not have enough time to set it up. Thankfully, she took her time and I got the shot. Sort of:3
Poh was the Thai photojournalist delegate for the trip. It was so funny because we visited a school and the students went crazy trying to take his picture like some kind of a superstar. The very next day, as we were travelling around, a group of student spotted us and started calling his name! Talk about a Thai lady-killer 8D
Emmy is the stunning Thai dancer of the group. I say stunning because when I first watched him danced, I stood like a moron with my camera and mouth open. I could not shoot because the way he danced was just so beautiful I could not bear to take my eyes off the scene. He is like my definition of beauty and no surprises here that 1/4 of the album that I posted was filled with his picture.
There were so many times throughout the camp whereby I asked myself, what kind of culture and heritage can I share with my beloved ASEAN family? In the end, I realized I know so little about my culture and traditions. Heck, I can’t even speak Mandarin without sounding like a foreigner.
So what makes me a Singaporean and how am I different from the rest of the photojournalist?
There is no “Chinese way of shooting” is there? What really matters is my point of view as a young, urban photographer in Singapore.
Given that my country has the best mix of both the East and the West, where do I stand among the crowd of visuals?
Most of the young photographers I know of are influenced by works from people in the west and are looking forward to travelling to the next exotic place because ‘there is nothing to shoot in Singapore’
The workshop, Junior Shooting Home has changed my mind about the ‘there is nothing to shoot in Singapore part’ but I still found it hard to find stories because I was not looking deep enough.
This camp has opened my eyes and forced me to rethink about my country and how do I tell other people about Singapore. What can I actually say about my country? That we are a ‘fine’ city? Or is there a hidden culture/ world I have yet to explore?
Through the camp, I’ve discovered that I do not need to look too far for my next story to document. That I could always go back to my roots and traditions as a Chinese and there are so many stories waiting for me! To start off, Chinese music will never sound the same to me. The irony is that I never knew what the Dizi sounded like until Qing Lun played it. I always had a passion for shooting dance and I had never watched a traditional dance until Norhaizard came into the picture.
During the camp, I witness the beauty of so many traditional dances. They are so different from the type of dance I was used to shooting.
Beauty, elegance tied to the rich history and culture of each country makes each dance so precious. The funny part is that there are actually overlaps between the music and dance. So the craft that the dancers and musicians are practising are both similar and different at the same time. The fact that all of them are youths, makes it special as they bring about a very vibrant spirit into what they are doing but there is also something very old and ancient to the art form altogether.
Similar but different, old but new -It was just mind-blowing to watch them and I am so honoured to be able to document everything.
After being witnessing the beauty of the dance, I would obviously do something about it in which case, my next personal project would be to shoot dance in the ASEAN region. A visual archive and a look at the youths keeping the dance tradition alive.
Of course, exploring traditional dances in Singapore will be the first step in my project. In which case, this project will be part of the Junior Shooting Home reunion show which will probably be happening in June.
2012 will be a very exciting year for me and here is a quick look at what might and will happen:
January: Hail Mary, FYP
February: Hail Mary FYP SUBMISSION, Portraits in Urban Spaces Exhibition
March: Shoot like a madwoman. AKA Earn money month.
April: Thailand -Bangkok, Design Show
May: Graduate from TP month, Earn money month, Japan?
June/ July: Indonesia -Sulawesi, JSH Exhibition
August: Project Orange Exhibition
September: Earn Money month
November: Thailand -Bangkok part 2
Yes. Welcome to my mad, mad life. In between, I will be singing in the International Festival Chorus, pick up either Muay Thai or Aikido, learn how to ride a motorbike and hopefully am able to go back to Jogja for that fantastic mushroom dinner. I might even want to learn the gamelan, Thai and Javanese dance(:
The camps I’ve attended before are all great. We cry at the end and promise to meet up and 5 years later, none of us even send a single Christmas greeting to each other. In this case, I do not want the ASEAN Youth Cultural Camp to end just yet thus I will be proposing something rather exciting in which I hope will be approved by the National Arts Council. I know I will see my dear friends again(:
Fingers Cross, Hail Mary, breathe and look deeper.