Sunday, 21 March 2004

The Shooting Home workshop is finally over. The 4 days photography workshop that I signed up for with Objectifs required us to work on a project about Singapore, our home. I wanted to shoot Singapore from a perspective of an “Accidental Tourist”. Life in other countries always seemed more interesting when I’m travelling. Is it because everything is different? I wondered if life in Singapore would seem more interesting if I try to see it from the eyes of a tourist?

I started shooting things that I thought were interesting and spent the first two days of the workshop photographing tissue paper packs on seats in the Golden Shoe Hawker Centre. Uniquely Singaporean, I thought. The faculty for the workshop hated it and all my pictures from the first few days of the workshop had to be thrown out.

I woke up on the 3rd day of the workshop and thought “Hey, why don’t I just shoot my own neighbourhood market?” If I’m a tourist in a foreign country, the best way to see how the locals really live would be looking at their daily lives, right? I’m pretty sure the fact that we call our Market “Pasat” is interesting for a start!

I started wandering around the Pasat. Curious hawkers and aunties and uncles kept asking me what I was doing.

“小姐,你在拍什么? 巴杀有什么好拍? ” 
“Miss, what are you shooting ? What’s so interesting about the Pasat? ”

“Uncle, 我拍巴杀啦。这是新加坡文化吗。如果我是旅客,看看一下本地人的生活是什么样也不错。不然每次都是Merlion, 很显。巴杀有什么不好?行行出状元。拍小贩也是很重要。“

“ Uncle, I’m photographing the market. It’s Singaporean culture. To show a Singaporean’s daily life. I imagine that if I’m a tourist, I want to see how the locals live. Otherwise, if I only visit the Merlion, it’s so boring. Hawkers are important too. What’s wrong with photographing the Hawkers?”

I love the energy in the market. Everyone started out being very shy. When I got to know them better, the jokes started to kick in and I started having fun.

“不要拍啦,等一不阿窿来找我啊.” 
“No lah , don’t take my photo lah. Later, the Ah Longs (Loan Sharks) come and look for me.”

“拍他啦。他比较帅!”
“Take his picture lah. He’s more handsome.” 

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Tuesday, 28 March 2008

The market is closing for renovations again. It’s going to be closed for the next 6 months. I shot the market once more just for old time’s sake. Everything changes so quickly in Singapore.

Some of the hawkers are taking a holiday, Some are moving to the temporary market. Some are retiring forever. You know the feeling when you move house? It feels the same in the market. Everyone is packing his or her stuff. The sundry shop auntie has her friend over to help her pack everything into brown boxes. One of the butchers asked me to take a picture with his friend because they might not see each other when the market re-opens. There were clearance sales signs everywhere. They are all trying to get rid of as much of their goods as possible.

I saw the vegetable uncle. As usual, he’s not wearing his shirt. He’s an icon in the market. Everyone knows him. I always thought he looks a little like Bruce Lee. I asked him why doesn’t he wear his shirt. He said that it’s too hot. Aunties were hovering around his stall and buying everything they need before it closes.

Walking through the market, I thought of my childhood. The familiar toy cars that kids could ride in the public space behind the market after their mothers were done with their marketing. I was 8 years old when my mum sent me to the market alone. She had forgotten to buy beansprouts. “Buy 20 cents beansprouts from the tau kau uncle, ok?”. She taught me exactly what to say. I rehearsed it in my mind. When I reached the stall, I fumbled as the tau kau uncle handed me the beansprouts wrapped in newspaper. For a kid, going shopping alone was an adrenaline rush and I felt like an adult.

I’ve always been obsessed with the elastic hair bands that were sold in the sundry stalls. Maybe it was the picture of the lady on the packaging, who looks like she was styled in the 60s, smiling back at me. I thought that she looked so cool with the hairband. I remembered saving my pocket money and going to the stall to buy my first hair band. Shopping in the Pasat must have been my first experience of retail therapy. 

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

It’s the eve of the Chinese New Year eve. I’ve been photographing the market again and I’m exhausted.

The vegetable hawkers started arranging their goods as early as 3 am in the morning. One of the stalls plays a mix of mandarin oldies and I could hear Zhou Xun singing 天涯歌女 while walking through the market. I noticed there were young people working in the market too. A few of them were children of the hawkers who helped out during the weekends. Most of them have full-time jobs and do not plan to take over their parents’ business

I stopped by Ah Soon’s fishball stall. They were just opening for the day. I spotted a Maneki Neko (Japanese fortune cat) in the display window before the goods were laid out in the morning. A wide variety of Japanese sauces and food can also be bought at his store. With globalization and customers become savvier, it’s not uncommon to find food items from different countries in the Pasat now。

7am, the housewives started streaming in. Grandmas with their trolleys were stocking up for their families’ big Chinese New Year’s eve reunion dinner. There was even a 财神爷 (God of Fortune) going around in the market to bless the stall owners with good luck in the coming year.

At 10pm, the hawkers were still at their stalls and would be working overnight to cater to the last minute customers. After tonight, they get their annual break, 5 days over Chinese New Year. Some markets close for a long period of time.

A little boy wondered into my frame as I was photographing the fishmonger. In his pajamas, he stood in front of the stall to looking at how the uncle deboned the fish. I remembered coming to the market in my pajamas too when I was young and my parents were doing their last minute Chinese New Year shopping. This year is the last year that we were going to spend Chinese New Year in Bedok. We’re going to move to a new home. I don’t think I’ll be able to visit this Pasat as often as I used to. I’ll miss it for sure. Thank you for the memories.

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