(2020) Shades of Grey

Shades of Grey

Eating out is a way of life in Singapore that dates to the country’s founding as a British trading outpost in 1819. The Circuit Breaker (Singapore’s version of lockdown) measures imposed during the Covid-19 pandemic present me with the opportunity to photograph our hawker culture that will resonate strongly with the locals who patronise hawker centres that sell cheap quality food. Of all restrictions, the ban on dining-in at hawker centres stirred up the most emotive reactions.

But as I have already documented the lowest point of the hawker culture during the Covid19, my next work is to record its recovery. The challenges it faces are unprecedented as the majority of its key market, which is the entire Singapore population, struggles through recession and retrenchments.

This set of circumstances presents me with the opportunity to photograph the city-state’s hawker culture in a unique style that will appeal to the masses. After studying the particular techniques of Daido and Tatsuo, who use high contrast Black and white post processing, and because of its evergreen nature that has lasted over two centuries, I applied their techniques to my images to create a déjà vu mood that will have the ability to evoke identical emotions at any point in the future, as they do today.

It is challenging to photograph in a hawker centre environment, where everyone is busy going about their daily lives, while taking a short break to have a meal. It is also not an Asian culture to engage in conversations with people they do not know, much less to be photographed by a stranger.

Studying the works of exceptional talents is crucial for professionals to advance in their art. So is having a deep appreciation of genres that are inherent in photography, and understanding that there are differences in approaches across all cultures, as is the case between the East and West. In this sense, I have benefitted immensely from my interactions with photographers from different backgrounds that allowed me to get out of my comfort zone, think out of the box and experiment.

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