It’s always interesting to hear the journey behind each photographer and how he got started. On 15 August, the PMET Division by the People’s Association held a photography workshop – My Neighbourhood Gems: What Really Matters – as part of the PA’s Lifestyle Master Series. If you find the event title somewhat familiar, some months back I went for My Neighbourhood Gems: A Photography Journey, also organised by PMET-PA and Buona Vista Community Club.
This time, the invited guest for the My Neighbourhood Gems: What Really Matters was Mr Kwek Leng Joo, managing director of City Developments Limited (CDL) and also an avid photographer. His portfolio includes a three-volume art book series Heart Voyage, as well as solo and group exhibitions. Mr Kwek has also helped to raise S$1.5 million for the needy and the environment through sales of his photographic works.
Accompanied by Minister Chan Chun Sing, Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, and Minister of State for Information, Communications and the Arts, Mr Kwek, 58, shared with the audience about how he started photography on film and SLR cameras at the age of 10. With photographic equipment of the past, it was think, then shoot. But with the latest technologies of today’s DSLR world, it is shoot first, then think.. and then the post-processing via Photoshop and digital imaging comes in.
Hence, in recent years, the definitions of photography and photographer have become more vague.
For example, the advancement of mobile phones has led to the popularisation of photography, with everyone snapping away on their android or smartphones, before sharing on the various social media platforms. Post-processing? There is a whole list of apps to choose from.
Photography has opened many doors for Mr Kwek, broadening his horizons beyond the confines of offices and board rooms. It has brought him to explore places that he normally goes not go to.
In the 50 years that he has been shooting, the toughest and longest project he has taken on is “Tracking Memories”, an arts-cum-heritage exhibition on railways. A joint showcase of his photographic works along with watercolour paintings by artist Ong Kim Seng, this exhibition was launched at the National Museum of Singapore last year. Featuring over 60 pieces of artwork, a total of 10 months was spent completing the project.
The objective of the project was to capture memories and experiences of the rail history between Singapore and Malaysia as part of heritage preservation, before the railway was demolished. Preparation was tough, with lots of research and recces for best vantage points, and execution was even tougher. Mr Kwek had to trek long distances of the railway, hike through foliage and once, was nearly killed when he didn’t hear a train coming and had just about 10 seconds to jump off the railway track before the train came rushing past.
Other than sharing his experiences, the purpose of the My Neighbourhood Gems series organised by PMET-PA and Buona Vista CC is to raise awareness and appreciation of the hidden gems in Buona Vista, in its architecture, people and food. As photography becomes more prevalent in everyday communication such as the influx of pictorial posts witnessed in social media, photography has certainly become a well-received topic and common hobby to bring like-minded PMETs together to make friends.
Connecting PMETs to other professionals of all ages, races and estates through various channels, the PMET-PA has all these specialised programmes to engage experts in their respective fields to give back to the society through sharing their expertise, as well as encouraging PMETs with shared interests to connect with each other.
An online photo competition with a theme of capturing the Tanjong Pagar heritage was also part of My Neighbourhood Gems: What Really Matters. Rewards for the best photos included a total of S$1,800 cash and other prizes. Those who voted for the eventual winning photo also stood a chance to win prizes for themselves. Keeping it online helps to target a larger audience, especially those who could not physically make it for the event.
I was looking at the photo submissions on the PMET Network Facebook page here and honestly, the photos are really good. The judges must have had a hard time!
Here’s the winning photo:
I realised I also like looking at photo submissions of a contest, as it lets you see how people interpret the theme differently and how the concepts and ideas can vary so greatly within the same topic.
Till the next My Neighbourhood Gems event!