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December, 2014 Monthly archive

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I don’t think many people know the meaning of your Chinese name. Can you tell us what it means and who named you?

My father named me Huiying (惠颖) after consulting Chinese anthroponymy. Even though he claims that the name has no special meaning, I like to believe that it bears the expectations that he has for me. ‘Hui’ (惠) is a name that runs in the family for all the girls of my generation, while ‘ying’ (颖) has two meanings, ‘unique’ and ‘intelligent’.

How did you get involved in photography?

I picked up my first camera when I was 18. After I finished my ‘A’ level exams, I took a basic photography course at a neighbourhood community centre. My father reluctantly bought me a second-hand Canon EOS 100 film camera that I wanted to use for the course. He didn’t believe that my interest would last.

I continued with photography as a hobby when I was in university, but I only took it more seriously in my final year. At that time, I was studying a course that I had zero interest in and the future seemed bleak to me. One day the thought just came to me, “Why not be a photographer?”

While I was trying to find a way to pursue my newfound dream, I came across a photography event where [Tay] Kay Chin was one of the speakers. I Googled his email and wrote to him, asking to assist him and learn from him. To my surprise, he actually replied and set up a meeting with me. I never looked back from there. Objectifs, where I was a participant in their annual Shooting Home workshop, has been pivotal in the development of my photography as well.

When you were younger, you and a few friends attempted to start a photography magazine. What was the rationale and why didn’t it materialise?

That happened a long time ago! I was just starting to explore photography and got roped in by some friends for this idea they had. I have no clue what happened to the idea but the experience taught me that it takes more than a good idea to get things going. Dedication, hard work and focus are equally, if not more important.

You grew up in a family of farmers, but you are a photographer. Is that considered progress?

Definitely not to my family! I suspect my parents still secretly hope that I will find a full-time job one day. I think they don’t really mind what I do for a living, as long as it’s stable and will provide me with a comfortable living.

What brought you to London? And how did that experience change you?

I went to London to do my postgraduate studies in photography. It was a choice I deliberated over for a few years. Prior to that, my photography was self-taught. Even though I had learnt a lot from short courses, workshops and mentors, I felt that there was still so much to learn. I decided that a formal education would allow me to learn the most within the shortest time. The typical kiasu mentality of Singaporeans, as you can see.

After researching the courses available in the US and Europe and visiting some schools, I chose the London College of Communication because the environment in London is more open and would give me more room to explore the practice. I was also more excited about living in London.

After three years of studying and working there, I am now back in Singapore. The experience has been unforgettable, and ranks as one of my top life-changing experiences. My photography has evolved and I have grown more confident and assured. There were many setbacks, of course, and each time my optimism and ‘zen-ess’ helped me overcome each setback.

You must have been asked this a thousand times already, “Isn’t that camera too big for a girl like you?” How would you respond?

Actually, I haven’t been asked that before. Usually I just get a lot of questions about my age and if I’m married. In Southeast Asia especially, people are always surprised that at my age, I’m still single and that my family would allow me to travel so freely by myself. My grandmother used to nag at me that I should stop running around for my work because it’s not appropriate behaviour for a girl.

Do you think it’s harder for women photographers to succeed?

I don’t think it’s harder for women photographers to succeed, but the challenge lies in being able to sustain our practice. The demands of working as a documentary photographer or photojournalist are in conflict with the expectations that most societies have for women. The working hours are irregular and sometimes you have to travel for assignments on short notice. If you have a family with children, I’m not sure how many men would support their wives’ career choice. The other alternative is to sacrifice having a family.

How did you prepare for this project?

The truth is I didn’t do much preparation for this project. No research was necessary because it’s my family – or that was what I thought. But as I was shooting them, I realised how little I understood my family or our history. So I used this opportunity to speak to different members of my family, using their memories to make up for the holes in mine.

Did the family make a lot of images when you were growing up?

The collection in my family archive is pretty impressive and goes all the way back to the 1960s. No one can remember who took the photos, just that there were some cameras lying around and they all took turns to play with it. To this day I still have vivid memories of my childhood — the people, places and specific events. These memories are closely attached to the photos that we have.

Tell us about your long-term project in Laos.

My love affair with Laos goes back to 2011, when I was studying in London. I started working on my MA final project about a proposed high-speed railway line to connect Laos to Thailand and China. This is part of the Trans-Asian Railway Network drawn up by UNESCAP, a railway network that will connect all of Asia to Europe. I chose to work in Laos because it’s one of the missing links in the network. Laos is a poor, undeveloped country that only has 3.5 km of railway track, and this high-speed railway plan is clearly its wildest dream. I was curious about how it was going to achieve it.

Three years later, Laos still has not made any progress on its proposed railway route, and my project has evolved from wanting to document the impact of this railway route to exploring the Laotian culture as it is on the brink of change. Adopting the high-speed train as a metaphor, I travelled along the proposed railway route and documented people and places that will be affected by the development. I’ve been going back to Laos at least twice a year since 2011 to work on this project, and recently I’ve started a new body of work along the Mekong River.

Would you date a photographer?

Actually I’m dating one right now. My life at the moment revolves around photography — my projects, assignments, social events. Even my friends are mostly photographers. It’s boring, right? I don’t think someone who’s not a photographer can understand or fit into my lifestyle.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I see three possible scenarios. One is that I am still working as a photographer, and hopefully still have the energy and passion to be travelling around the world for work and will never stop working on my personal projects. Another vision is that I will follow in my family’s footsteps and continue running our family farm. In a perfect world, these two visions would coexist.

How important are words in your practice?

Words are my first love. As a child, I remember devouring any books I could lay my hands on, from fairy tales to Enid Blyton books to simplified Chinese classical literature. Words brought me to places far away and to different worlds. But I fell out of love with words when I discovered the glossy photos of National Geographic. Those photographs have replaced words as the fuel for my imagination and curiosity, and they transport me to real places, not made-up ones. That’s the magic that I hope the images I create will have. But I recognise that images have their limitations. They are bad at providing context and certain information. That’s when I use words to fill in the gaps.

You must have photography heroes. Who are they?

I have so many of them and they change over time. When I was starting out, I was inspired by Sebastião Salgado. His works are epic, ambitious and beautiful. Most of all, the dedication he has for his projects is out of this world. Shortly after, I started discovering the works of women photographers: Dorothea Lange, Diane Arbus, Eve Arnold, Susan Meiselas. To this day, their works and achievements continue to motivate me.

At some point I moved away from photojournalism to explore documentary photography. That’s when I started to appreciate more quiet and subtle works of photographers such as Alec Soth, Pieter Hugo and Rinko Kawauchi. Lately, I’ve added some Chinese photographers such as Luo Dan, Yan Ming and Zhang Xiao to my list of inspirations. A lot of them spent years working on their personal projects and the results are pretty amazing.

Can you imagine yourself not being a photographer?

I used to think that I couldn’t do anything except photography. But lately I’ve been entertaining the thought of helping out in my family business. Other than these two areas, I don’t see myself doing anything else.

   

The portrait of Ore Huiying was drawn by Flee Circus; and Leonard Goh, who will anchor all the interviews in this series, is a co-founder of Platform.

To purchase a copy of We Are Farmers by Ore Huiying, please visit:
http://twentyfifteen.myshopify.com/collections/photographers-folios/products/we-are-farmers-by-ore-huiying

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我相信很多人不知道你华文名字的含义。你能不能告诉我们它有什么意思?还有是谁帮你取名的?

我的名字‘惠颖’是我父亲在参考人名学后为我取的。虽然他声称名字没有特殊的含义,但我相信这名字承载着他对我的期望。‘惠’是我的家族中的女孩统一规定的辈份名,而‘颖’有两个意思—— 独特与聪颖。

你是如何接触摄影的?

我第一次接触摄影时,只有十八岁 。那时我刚考完‘A’水准考试,便在邻里联络所报读了摄影基础课程。父亲相当不情愿地买了一架二手相机给我,因为当时他以为我对摄影只有三分钟热度,不可能持久。

之后我升上大学, 把摄影当做业余爱好,直到即将毕业,才认真考虑把摄影当成职业。那时我对所就读的房地产管理系毫无兴趣,对未来感到彷徨,直到有一天萌生了一个念头:“不如当个摄影师吧?”

当我还在思考如何实现这个梦想时,从报章上得知本地摄影大师郑家进先生将在一个摄影活动中担任主讲嘉宾。我立即与他联系,想要跟他学习。想不到他竟然回复了我的电邮,还答应与我见面。那是我梦想跑道的起点。另外,Objectifs (本地的一间摄影中心)也在我的摄影事业里扮演了举足轻重的角色。我在那儿参加了不少课程,包括他们一年一度的Shooting Home课程,也认识了很多志同道合的朋友。

几年前,你和几个朋友试图出版一个摄影杂志。当时的动机是什么?这个想法最后为什么没有实现呢?

那是好久以前的事了,就在我开始认真学习摄影时,几个朋友邀我参与他们的计划。我也不清楚后来发生了什么事,不过那次的经验使我体会到,要获得成功,除了要有好的想法,还必须有毅力,专注与努力不懈的精神。

你在一个农耕家族中长大,但你是一个摄影师。这算是一种进步吗?

对我的家人来说绝对不是吧。我怀疑我父母还偷偷地希望我会找到一分朝九晚五的工作。他们认为从事哪个行业无所谓,最重要的是工作稳定,可以让我衣食无忧。

你当时为了什么到伦敦去? 那次的经验对你有何影响?

我去伦敦是为了修读摄影硕士课程,这是我反复思考了几年才做的决定。之前,虽然参加了很多短期课程,也从导师们的身上学到很多知识,但我仍然觉得自己还有很多进步的空间。我相信通过正规的课程,我可以在最短的时间里吸收最多的知识。也许这就是新加坡人典型到怕输心态吧。

经过一番仔细的研究与实地参考,我选择了London College of Communication。因为感觉上伦敦的环境比较开放,可以给予我更多的空间去探索摄影这个艺术。相较于其他城市,我更向往在伦敦生活。

在伦敦生活了三年后,我现在回到了新加坡。那段经验很难忘,可以说是我人生的一个转捩点。在这三年中,我的摄影风格改变了, 对摄影的想法有了突破,人也变得更有自信。当然其中遇到很多挫折,但我都以乐观开朗的态度克服了困难。

一定有很多人问过你:“你的相机对一个女生而言会不会太大?”你又是如何应对?

其实,从来没有人问我这样的问题。我遇到的人通常对我的年龄比较好奇,也常问我是否已婚。尤其在东南亚,当人们发现我到了这个年纪还单身,家人也放心让我一个女生独自旅游,都会感到很惊讶。就连我的祖母以前都会常唠叨我不要再为了工作四处奔波,因为这不是一个女孩应有的行为。

你觉得在这个行业中,女摄影师是否会比较难获得成功?

我不认为女性在摄影这个领域要取得成功会比较困难。我觉得我们面临的挑战是要如何在这个领域中维持最高的水平。作为一个纪实摄影师或摄影记者,我们的责任通常与大多数社会对女性的期望背道而驰。例如工作时间不规律,有时候为了工作必须出远门。 对于一个有家庭与孩子的女摄影师而言,不一定会得到另一半的支持。另一个选择就是放弃组织家庭。

为了拍摄这个系列,你做了什么准备?

事实上,我没有为拍摄这个项目做太多的准备。我起初认为拍摄对象是自己的家人,所以没什么可准备的。但在拍摄的过程中,我发现我没有自己想像中那么了解我的家人与家族的历史。于是我趁这次的机会,多与家人谈天,透过他们的记忆来拼凑我的家族历史。

在你成长的过程中,你的家人常拍照吗?

我们家的旧照片数量相当可观,早在六十年代就有人开始拍照。大家都不记得究竟是谁拍的照,只是当时家里有几台相机,因此每个人都轮流当摄影师。到了现在,我对童年的住家,玩伴与发生过的某些事件还印象深刻。这些珍贵的记忆因为这些旧照片被永恒的保留了下来。

可以聊聊你在老挝拍摄的项目吗?

我对老挝的钟爱可以追溯到2011年,当时我还在伦敦留学,开始进行我的硕士毕业作品,主题是老挝提议的高速铁路计划。这条高铁路线将会吧内陆的老挝和泰国、中国连接起来,是属于联合国亚太经社会设计的泛亚铁路网的一部分。老挝是一个贫穷的发展中国家,目前只有 3.5公里的铁路轨道。这个高速铁路计划显然是一个疯狂的梦想。我对老挝要如何去实现它感到好奇。

三年后,老挝的高铁梦想仍然停滞不前。我原来想纪录这条铁路对老挝社会带来的冲击,现在的方向是探索在这个国家面临经济发展的时刻,老挝文化将何去何从? 我沿着拟建的铁路线,记录了即将因为发展计划而改变的人物与景物。自2011年,我为了拍摄这个项目,每年都会回返老挝至少两次。最近,我在老挝开始了一个新的项目,主题是湄公河。

你会与摄影师交往吗?

其实我现任的男朋友就是一个摄影师。我此刻的生活围绕着摄影——我的拍摄项目、工作、社交活动等……连我的朋友也大多是摄影师。听起来好无趣,对吗? 我认为不从事这个行业的人很难理解或适应我的生活方式。

你觉得十年后,你的人生会是怎么样的?

我觉得有三种可能性:我可能仍然从事摄影这个行业,希望到时还有精力与热情到世界各地进行拍摄,也继续发展着我的个人项目。此外,我可能会继承家业,继续经营农场。在一个完美的世界里,有可能上述的两个情况并存。

在你的摄影作品里,文字有多重要?

文字应该是我的初恋。还记得小时候,我热爱阅读,不管是童话故事或者是简体版都中国古典文学作品,我都爱不释手。书籍里面的文字总会把我带到不同的国度。但自从发现了地理杂志里的光面照片后,我马上移情别恋。杂志里的照片逐渐取代文字,成为点燃我好奇心与想像力的驱动力。这些照片把我运送到真实,而非虚构的世界各个角落中。我希望我拍摄的照片能有同样的魔力。然而,我很清楚图像具有它的局限性,所以我还是会在我的作品里,使用文字来提供背景与相关资料。

你应该有自己崇拜的摄影大师,能告诉我们他们是谁吗?

我有好多崇拜的摄影大师,我的摄影偶像也随着时间而改变。刚开始时,我的灵感来自巴西摄影师Sebastião Salgado。他的作品宏大又美丽,更令人敬佩的是,他总是竭尽所能完成自己的作品。之后,我开始接触一些女摄影师如Dorothea Lange, Diane Arbus, Eve Arnold, Susan Meiselas等的作品。至今,她们的作品与成就还不断地启发着我。

在某一个阶段,我远离了新闻摄影,开始探索纪实摄影。这时候我才学会欣赏更安静和微妙的摄影作品,例如Alec Soth, Pieter Hugo and Rinko Kawauch 的作品。近几年,一些中国摄影师例如珞丹,严明与张晓的作品也启发了我。他们花费很多时间摄制个人项目,成就非凡。

你可以想像自己不是摄影师的一天吗?

我以前觉得除了摄影,我对其他的行业都不可能有兴趣。可是最近,我在考虑投入家族生意的可能性。

   

The portrait of Ore Huiying was drawn by Flee Circus; and Leonard Goh, who will anchor all the interviews in this series, is a co-founder of Platform.

To purchase a copy of We Are Farmers by Ore Huiying, please visit:
http://twentyfifteen.myshopify.com/collections/photographers-folios/products/we-are-farmers-by-ore-huiying

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Ore Huiying is a documentary photographer from Singapore. Her practice revolves around storytelling. She works mostly on personal projects and editorial assignments. Her work has been published in Le Monde (France), Courrier International (France), British Journal of Photography (UK), Ojo de Pez magazine (Spain) and BBC (UK), among others.

Since 2008, Ore’s work has also been exhibited in photo festivals, museums and galleries both regionally and internationally, at venues such as the Arts House (Singapore), Dali International Photo Festival, Gallery Lichtblick Cologne and HOST Gallery (London). She received one of the best portfolio prizes at the inaugural Singapore International Photo Festival in 2008. The same year, the National Arts Council (Singapore) awarded her a Professional Development Grant in support of her work.

Ore was named one of the 10 Platform Emerging Photographers in Singapore 2010 and was selected to participate in the 1st Asian Women Photographers’ Showcase at the Angkor Photo Festival. She was nominated for the Sagamihara Photo City’s Asia Prize (Japan) and received a Select Award in the Kuala Lumpur International Photo Award. Most recently, in 2013 Ore was nominated for ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu, a photography award in Singapore that honours photographers’ original vision and dedication to their craft.

In 2010, Ore completed her Masters of Arts in Photojournalism & Documentary Photography at the London College of Communication. She spent three years working and living in London, then returned to Singapore in 2013. Her photography is focused on investigating the progression of Southeast Asian societies in the global context.

To purchase a copy of We Are Farmers by Ore Huiying, please visit:
http://twentyfifteen.myshopify.com/collections/photographers-folios/products/we-are-farmers-by-ore-huiying

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Spread-cover
  

We are Farmers

When I took up photography, I didn’t consider my family worthy of photographing. Like most people, I thought they were ordinary. That changed in 2007 when I contracted meningitis and was in a critical coma for a few days. The doctor prepared my family for the worst-case scenario. When I regained consciousness, I had no idea what happened; it was as if I had simply fallen into a deep slumber. My sister filled me in: how my mom had found me in my room having a seizure, on a day when she would normally be working at our farm; the conversation that the doctor had with my parents; the guilt and pain on my mom’s face; the friends and family who took turns to visit me when I was in the coma.

This experience prompted me to reflect on my life. I realised that if I had left the world then, I would have had few regrets other than the fact that I had not spent enough time to connect with my family. I had neither appreciated nor attempted to understand them. While I was busy pursuing my dreams, I had alienated my family members, especially my parents. Yet even though they didn’t comprehend what I was doing with my life, they had quietly supported me all the way.

So I started photographing them as an attempt to bridge my indifference, and to look afresh at a subject that is often taken for granted. In the process, I’ve discovered that I have a most extraordinary family.

I come from a family of farmers. My great-grandfather started a coconut plantation in Yio Chu Kang in the 1960s, his seven sons working alongside him. When the area was slated for redevelopment in the late 1970s, they moved to Punggol and started a pig farm. I grew up there, where roughly 100 members of my extended family lived and worked together.

My days of chasing piglets and exploring longkang [monsoon drains] came to an end in the late 1980s, when the government decided to phase out pig farming in Singapore. It was then that my eldest uncle decided to venture into hydroponics farming so that the family could continue to live and work together. After 24 years of hard work, the farm is still running and the family is still together. This series of photographs is an exploration of the hopes and dreams that tie us together, and a reflection of where my sense of self, community and tradition comes from.

刚开始接触摄影时,我从没想过以自己的家人作为摄影的对象。在我的眼中,他们和其他人一样,很平凡。那时,我即将大学毕业,但对所就读的房地产管理系毫无兴趣。毕业后我不顾家人的反对,毅然投入了摄影这个行业, 对未来充满了憧璟。当时的我十分理想化,总觉得家人不了解我,也不支持我的梦想。在沉溺于摄影的过程中,我与家人渐渐产生了隔阂。2007年的一场重病,让我有了另一番的体会。一场突如其来的脑膜炎,让我陷入了昏迷。终于苏醒时,感觉只是沉沉的睡了一觉,但是后来妹妹告诉我:妈妈原来应该在农场工作,却侥幸的在家发现我昏倒在地,即时把我送进医院;医生如何告知我的父母必须做最坏的心理准备;妈妈脸上的痛苦与愧疚;家人、亲戚、朋友如何轮流探望昏迷中的我……

与死神擦身而过的经历让我重新审视了自己的人生。如果我的生命就此结束,我想我唯一的遗憾就是没有花更多时间与家人相处,建立更亲密的关系。我从未感谢过家人对我的付出,也从未认真的尝试去了解他们。在追求理想的当儿,我和家人渐行渐远,尤其和父母的关系越来越疏离。然而,尽管爸爸妈妈并不能理解我为何选择这样一个人生道路,他们还是在背后默默的支持我。

于是我开始把镜头转向我的家人,一方面想想消弭我们之间的距离,另一方面想以全新的角度发掘一个经常被忽略的摄影主题。在摄影的过程中,我深深的意识到,我的家族原来如此的不平凡。

我生长在一个农耕家族。六十年代曾祖父白手起家,在杨厝港建立了椰子园。当时他与七个儿子一起经营这片园地。后来因为政府征收土地,于七十年代末搬迁到榜鹅,在那里重新创立了一家养猪场。我的童年就是在那里度过的。那时候大约有近百名家族成员在农场里一起工作与生活,像是个小柑榜。然而,那段追逐着猪崽、在垄沟中嬉戏的柑榜童年很快就结束了。八十年代末,政府决定淘汰生猪养殖业,我们再次面临搬迁的命运。我们的大家族自此分散,伯公与叔公们的家庭都各奔南北。大伯为了想让一家人能够继续一起奋斗,一起生活,决定开设水耕蔬菜农场。24年的岁月转眼流逝,这个以曾祖父命名的胡进发水耕农场还继续经营着,更紧紧地维系着我们的骨肉亲情,培育着我们的下一代。

这个系列的作品探讨的是联系着我们这个家族每一个成员的希望和梦想,也是我对自己的自我意识、社群意识,以及传统的反思。

To purchase a copy of We Are Farmers by Ore Huiying, please visit:
http://twentyfifteen.myshopify.com/collections/photographers-folios/products/we-are-farmers-by-ore-huiying

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NOSTALGIA
Edition of three, plus one artist’s proof
S$1200 per print*

* By purchasing a print, you are making a direct and important contribution to the publications of twentyfifteen books. Without your generous support, the financial burden of self-publishing them will be significantly higher for us.

About the print:
– Paper size: 17″ x 22″
– Image size: 15″ x 15″
– Each print is carefully made with Epson professional printer, using original Epson inks.
– The paper for this edition is Museo Silver Rag, 300gsm.
– You can find out more about the paper specifications for Museo Silver Rag paper here.
– Signed with title, edition number and year, in ink, recto

Singapore shipping:
– Free hand delivery for any Singapore addresses.
– Each print is delivered in top grade Mylar or equivalent.

Overseas shipping:
- we will work with individual buyer on the best shipping option.
– Additional charges to be borne by buyer.
- Each print is delivered in top grade Mylar or equivalent, with additional protection for shipping

More info about digital printing in general:
- Wilhelm Imaging Research is the world authority on stability and preservation of traditional and digital photographs.

How to make an order:
Place your order by emailing me at printsale@twentyfifteen.sg

You can also buy directly from our online store at http://twentyfifteen.myshopify.com/collections/prints/products/nostalgia-by-ore-huiying

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