TwentyFifteen 12/20: We Are Farmers by Ore Huiying

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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。

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