I like talent and creativity, and whenever I discover a new such source of inspiration, I like to share it with the world. By happy accident I stumbled upon Yen Feng's album "60 minutes Singapore" filled with the most vibrant street photography. I promptly wrote him a note of appreciation, and he was kind enough to answer. We were mere acquaintances. I had no business asking if I could feature him on my blog--yet I did, and he obliged. Sometimes it pays to throw common sense out the window.
What's your name?
Would you consider yourself an amateur photographer? (Don't worry. I'm
an amateur blogger.)
Yes, an amateur photographer sounds right.
What inspired you for this street photography session of Singapore?
It comes down to two things: creative outlet and
access to technology. I started using Instagram in Dec 2011 during a visit to
NYC, where I lived for several years before moving back to Singapore. I wanted
a way to document my trip that would be easy/convenient. After taking a few
photos, I realised that I should develop the idea into a creative project--hence the 60 minutes concept. The concept is to record moments in life that
reflect the city I am in. I don't really like posed shots, and these
"stolen" moments have a journalistic feel to them that I was drawn
to. By ‘journalistic’ I suppose I mean to be an outsider recording what was
happening, what I observed. When I returned to Singapore, I decided to do the same here - this is
obviously an on-going project and it has already exceeded far beyond collecting
the initial 60 moments I had for the NYC project.
I was also inspired by all the great street
photos I saw on Instagram.Another source was my good friend, who is also
an avid Instragram user. He introduced me to new photographers to follow and
some editing apps, which I now use in my work.
What kind of camera do you use?
I use my iPhone. That's it. In NYC, that was the
iPhone4. Now it's the 4s.
With the advent
of camera phones, it is now possible to snap pictures of unsuspecting
passersby, while it's decidedly harder to catch them 'in the moment' if you whip out your camera. How do you feel the medium of photography has changed?
I think it is still possible to capture great
street photography using a proper camera. Lots of people do so. For me I
suppose because the iPhone is so convenient, I get to shoot wherever I go. I
have a Leica but I am not used to carrying it with me all the time.
What do you want this colletion of photos to represent?
I don't think my photos represent anything in particular - to me I see them as moments in a silent film - viewers fill in the stories as they imagine. If there is one thing, however, I hope they represent in its small way the incredible richness of human life.
What are your favorite subjects for photography?
Do you have any advice for the novice photographer?
Shoot often and a lot. Give yourself projects to work on that can give you focus. Instagram's weekend hashtag project I've found is really useful to break out of habit and experiment with new subjects and perspectives.
Like what you see? These pictures are only a small sample of the album; you can check out the rest of his work here:
Mother has redecorated for spring and Easter. Green curtains and yellow feathers.
Mother loves flowers of all kinds, and she has always longed for a garden, but because of the constraints of an apartment, she told me she could never plant her own. Then she saw that Elsa has filled her entire house with little dirt boxes with delicately green sprouts and heating lamps and plant-filled beakers and very small greenhouses in preparation for spring, and she cheered up immediately and sowed her own seeds the very next day. She placed the tray in front of the window, proving once again that where there's a will, there's a way.
But there is hope! Shortly after my father visited the area, he wrote up a report detailing the horrible living conditions of the Badi people and sent it to all the supporters of Touching Asia ministries. Money immediately began pouring. The first girls' home was inaugurated in Kathmandu in November 2009, only nine months after my father had been to Garbage Village, and thirty girls were finally given a roof over their heads, food in their stomachs, and the prospect of a bright future ahead.
Two older widows from a church in Kathmandu would be the ‘mothers’ of the home, responsible for making sure
the girls from the village received love and care, food, shelter,
clothing, and an education. My father says it was pure joy to buy track suits, socks, hats, and other personal items for the little girls. The girls were so
delighted to find mattresses on the floor of their room they did not wait for
the bunk beds to be brought in, but crept under the blankets right away. They had come from homes of few clothes and little warmth, and my father wrote in his next newsletter that it “must be like heaven to them. They also received a few
stuffed animals—the first they had ever had—and tears welled up in my eyes when
I saw their joy over these few things. How many more children are there in this
world, suffering like these girls?”
The ministry was blessed
from the beginning. Good News Mission financially underpinned the next two homes, which opened in March and November 2011, and an Australian church is currently supporting a fourth home. Though such
efforts may seem small and futile in the face of overwhelming statistics, they
are changing the world for the youngest and most vulnerable of people. The
homes do not only provide a Christian home with house parents, but also a long-term education
and vocational training in preparation for future job opportunities, breaking
the generations-long cycle of poverty and prostitution.
There are many needs in the world, and though this is a tiny fraction of an enormous problem, God had let his light shine upon it. We cannot do everything, but we must do something. The compassion ministry in Nepal is currently providing a way out for the outcasts, and it is standing up against hundreds of years of culture and defying that which has stood still for so long. It is working to restore dignity to the Badi community and to see lives redeemed, saved, and healed.
Once upon a time, my father was shown a village in Nepal, deep in the mountains. It was called Garbage Village, home to the Badi people. It was February. The ground was hard and frost ringed the grasses. The houses were made of bamboo and grass, and the people were dressed in rags, dirty, ravaged by the disease of an unfulfilled life.
The Badi people are dalits, the untouchables of society, outcast even among the outcasts. They cannot share the same village pump, food, water, or housing with the higher classes. They cannot touch them. They are born into extreme poverty with no chance of education, healthcare, or social status.
Hundreds of years ago, Badi women were entertainers, dancers, musicians, courtesans, but over time this practice was corrupted, deformed into prostitution, with parents selling their own daughters as young as eight into slavery. Prostitution has become the family trade, and it is so entrenched in their identity as a people group that it is an accepted fact of life.
Parents are often the ones who bring home the first customers to their daughters. Some girls are lured away to the larger cities with the promise of work, kidnapped and brought to brothels in India. Some are married off under false pretences, ending up as sex slaves or as wifes in their husband's harem in Dubai.
Only in 2005 did the Supreme Court finally order the Nepalese government to extend citizenship and education to the Badi people, but bureaucrats dragged their feet on the matter, and little change has been achieved.
"You are daring to imagine that you could have a different life. Oh, I know it doesn't feel like that. You feel like a big fat failure now. You are marching into the unknown with...nothing."
- Birdie Conrad, You've Got Mail
Kathleen Kelly has lost her shop to the juggernaut of Fox Books, and with it, her fully-formed place in life. She has been rudely pushed from a position of great security and comfort--her mother's store, a landmark of the Upper West Side--and Kathleen finds herself on the cusp of an unforeseeable future. She must find a new job and a new way by which to define herself. At the moment, I am feeling much the same way. As I near the completion of my father's book, the questions of my future whereabouts are beginning to loom overhead. Where will I go? What will I do? What adventures will there be?
I too am marching into the unkown with nothing--a resume, at best, to wave in front of employers and pray they will like what they see. It feels a bit strange that one's prospects are tied to a single sheet of paper, a bit vulnerable to turn my face into the wind.
But then, is not wind for filling sails? Full speed ahead, Sir. Steady as she goes.
Shihan caught up to me in the middle of my warm ups before karate. "Good news! You get to keep these." He hands me a pair of padded shin guards for sparring. "They're second-hand, so...half-price."
"Wonderful!" I stop and correct myself, "OSU! Arigatoo gozaimashita!"
"And don't use mine."
I try to picture myself trying to sneak off with Shihan's shin guards tucked under my arm, to no success. I'm not sure why he pegged me for a black-hearted thief, but you can't blame a man for being perceptive.
The shin guards did come in handy. I was missing my sparring partner when 7.45 rolled around, and Shihan stepped in to help me to my sudden but inevitable demise. Everyone knows you work at 150% when the boss is watching, or in my case, when the boss is trying to kill you. (Let's just say I can no longer lie on my left side.) I did get in one good, but unfortunately cheap shot. Shihan stepped back to let me catch my breath (or so I assumed) and I hit him right in the solar plexus.
"Oh," he groaned. "I had bowed out!"
I bow in deep shame of great distress. "Doomo sumimasen."
Forgiveness has never been so sweet or so necessary for my survival.
Jo, visst. Först ska man klippa håret och Märta har stylat det så fint, så fint och det håller sig till man ska till karaten, då man måste sätta upp det i en knöl på huvudet och mosa in hela kalaset i en mössa. Ack, sånt är livet på en pinne.
Spring is on its way! Days of sunshine! Slushy snow! It is amazing how invigorated I feel. I spark with productivity. I am waking up again. It's as if I want to do everything at once and can't sit still at all. I just finished up the fourth draft of the book; it needs to be read through once again and filled in with various things, but until father reads through it, I am without a job. That is why I have turned my mind to other things, such as smoothie-making and sewing and organizing the many bags and boxes in my room and dreaming about the next few months. In the meanwhile, enjoy some pictures from my life.
Cousin Amelia made the first page of Västerbottenskuriren, the local newspaper, a few months ago, and as any proud cousin would, I kept the newspaper. Here she is, flying through the air in a long jump on the school sports day. The caption reads "Unga Hopp," which aptly means both "Young jumps" and "Young hope." Ain't Swedish grand?
One morning I found the paper on the kitchen table with none other than Erika from my dojo on the first page. She was photographed before her first full-contact competition (which she won, I'll have you know.) Not only is she a lean, mean, blonde and blue-eyed muscle machine, she is also scary good.
I can't recall if I've told you this before, but Singaporean taxi drivers have always had a penchant for guessing my age, and being very bad at it. When I was fiften they'd peg me for thiry-something and married. "Do you have any children?"
As I grew older, it seemed to go the other way. A woman at church once told me, "It's so nice to see the youth invovled in church work."
I stopped. "How old do you think I am?"
I was twenty at the time.
One taxi driver looked at me closely and nodded confidentially, as if we shared some secret. "I think you're older than you look. You have a baby face."
Twice in two days has this come to haunt me. In Sigtuna, mother and I ducked into a small museum to have a look about. The woman at the desk, as she was typing out our tickets, motioned at me. "How old are you? You do look to be about..."
She makes one of those kindly oh-that's-too-bad-faces. "I thought you might be younger than nineteen. The price would have been different."
And finally, on our way back up to Umeå, mother, father, and I stopped at a restaurant serving delicious meatballs and smashed potatoes. A row of one-armed bandits stood in the hallway on our way out, and mother said the "spirit of gambling" flew into her, and she put one krona into one of the slot machines. I helped her figure out what button to press when I see the cashier standing behind us, waving at me. "You can't play."
"But I'm not playing," I point at mother. "She is."
"Well, you can't stand that close to the machines."
"Please back away from the machine."
Mother is confused. "But she's twenty-four."
Granted the age limit is twenty-three for slot machines, but the woman must have thought I was a great deal younger than that. She raises her eyebrows. "Oh, I'm sorry. You don't look it. Do you have any ID?"
"In the car." Suddenly I feel six-years-old and very silly. "My mom can verify."
My parents and I spent Wednesday, Thursday, Friday in Stockholm. We were delayed two days by illness, but we finally set off. Wednesday mother and my grandparents went to IKEA and bought bedsheets. Thursday we all drove to Sigtuna to have tea at Tant Bruns (literally Aunt Brown's.) Aunt Brown is one of three women who feature in Elsa Beskow's beloved children stories published between 1918 and 1947.
From left: Aunt Violet, Aunt Green, Aunt Brown, and Uncle Blue
Sigtuna is not, contrary to popular belief, the location of these stories, though the two are often confused because of its tiny-town feel with narrow streets and cozy houses. I visited in the summertime with my brother two years ago and I bought a porcelain hairclasp at a flea market and had mint ice-cream.
At the doorway to Tant Brun, I met two elderly gentlemen backpackers. One of them said to the other, "Is it this door or is it the one in the front?"
"Yes," I said, dropping in on their conversation to help them along. "That's the right door."
One of the gentlemen backpackers looked at me. "Painting your lips?"
"Yes, I am." I slipped my cherry red lipgloss into my coat pocket.
"Looks nice," he said and ducked inside.
Tea and apple donut
Copper pot coffee
Me laughing at my father trying to fix grandfather's camera which is set to Polish in the language settings
Ida turned up for worship practice last night with a ship. She bought me a ship! She had been in a loppis and saw it on the shelf and thought, "That belongs to Sanna." I feel I have been overwhelmed with piratical gifts of late. First Natalie's golden spyglass and then Alicia's pirate parrot postcard and now this. What ever have I done to deserve such kindness?
Barbarossa and Wynne have, of course, already commandeered the vessel. They are pirates, and one cannot hope to dissuade them from their chosen profession.
Tomorrow I will go traveling with my hamsters. It's so hard to find a good hamstersitter these days, and as I was out late, I was also out of luck. Therefore I will pack Wynne and Barbarossa into the car, and together we shall drive to Uppsala to celebrate my grandfather's eighty-fifth birthday. I shall feel very much like Beatrix Potter and her two white mice. Sans hedgehog.