Passing Through

1, 2, 3

Entering, Here, Gone.

Settling back into office life has been a very fulfilling experience. The chore of earning our keep made so much enjoyable when you stand shoulder to shoulder (metaphorical but with ample social distancing) with friends and colleagues. Seeing others working together with me helps me enjoy my work more than working alone at home. There is a deeply satisfying feeling of being able to communicate face to face with others to discuss, debate and delight in work and non work topics.

I’m an introvert who enjoys the company of others.

A Mini Reset

I can easily attribute how I’m feeling about work to the impact of working from home due to Covid. However, that would be an easy cop out. I’ve been feeling unhappy at work for sometime now. I can’t blame a global pandemic for my disappointment with work and my desire to just throw in the towel. However, I can understand how Covid could have impacted my colleagues and influenced their behaviour.

In any case, when flights re-opened and Air New Zealand launched a sale on flights around New Zealand, I jumped on the chance to join my husband in his work trip to the Wellington region to visit my team in Wellington and give me a chance to escape from my familiar environment. I’m looking for this trip to give me a break up in my routine and give me a mini reset. Spending time with people from work I like always gives me a chance to balance my yin and yang out.

Wellington, Windy Wellington, is a fun place to visit. It is a pocket size dynamo with a wide range of cafes, restaurants and sights. I was on a completely different stage of my photography journey when I previously visited Wellington. This time, I’m armed with a different view of photography and I’m keen to explore. Here are some photos from about 2 hours of shooting spread over an evening and morning I got to spend ion Wellington.

Contemplative Photography

If you are looking for photography that makes a statement about the world and encourages you to contemplate on your place in the world, you’re in the wrong place. The contemplative photography that I’m taking about is a selfish journey that I go on when I have the luxury of time to walk explore a place and photograph as I please, by myself. During this self indulgent time, I get to think about what is going on in my life, how I’ve reacted and how I could have better handled a situation.

It sounds like the second round of lockdown has hit most people quite hard. In speaking to others, this second lockdown might even be worse than the first because we’ve tasted level 1 freedom and there is fear that in future a single community case could throw us back into lockdown. Unlike others, this lockdown has been better for me as I’m learning to strike a balance. I’ve found time to take a break and be more reflective.

I usually work 45-50 hour weeks. I generally enjoy what I do but it has been getting tougher to find joy in my work. I work best when I can interact with others to understand their point of view and collaborate effective. It doesn’t even have to be face to face. I can also work well with people who are in different locations across New Zealand. However, Covid induced lockdowns and the resulting requirement to work from home have resulted in changes to people. I observe the following emotions and behaviour quite regularly: Panic, sensitivity to comments, lack of engagement, disinterest and over reaction. I notice them because I observe them in myself.

If I take the moral high ground and absolve myself of the need to take responsibility of my actions, I would blame grumpy individuals who roll from bed to desk without the needed change in environment that encourages a shift to a work suitable mindset. I would also blame texting as a replacement for talking. Unless you’re communicating specific measurable ideas, texting concepts through SMS, Microsoft Teams and WhatsApp is simply asking for trouble.

But I want to take ownership. I want to be an architect not a victim. What that means for me is something I’m still working through. Photography gives me time to think and maybe I should see if there can be any cross overs between my life and my photography. As I wind up my exploration of Eden Terrace, I realised that my approach to communication should be summed up in two words, just enough. I should not be so anxious to explain or fill the silence. Judicious choice of words. The last word does not need to be mine. Plenty rich after 5 paragraphs.

Here are the photos from exploring the right handsome of Newton Gully that divides Eden Terrace into two unequal halves.

The good news, I’m pretty sure I’ve settled on my custom setting. It does not emulate any film stock but it has the desaturated yet vibrant look I’m looking for.

Morning Light in a Cafe

For the past 5-6 years, my husband Chris, a man of routine, has been catching up with our friend Mike on Friday mornings for coffee after their gym workout. That routine still stands long after Mike and Chris moved on to different gyms. It took a heart attack and a global pandemic level virus to change this routine. It has been a few months, but Chris and Mike are catching up again on Friday morning.

I decided to invite myself to this coffee catchup as I’m working from home and the cafe they are catching up at is a short walk away. As usual, I take my camera along. It is almost instinctive. I know looking through the viewfinder ocassionally stops me from enjoying the moment. However, I still bring it along. I feel a little naked without. It’s a little crutch of mine. But I would love for it help open a conversation.

At the cafe, we opted to sit inside. I’m glad we did. Not only because it was cold outside. But because the sun was lovely and there were so many opportunities. This week’s lens of choice is my 50mm. Not the most ideal lens in a small enclosed environment. But I’ve learnt to appreciate the restriction liberation that a simple setup provides. When the 50mm is close for one scene, it will be perfect for another a few minutes later. True to form, I shot these two shots.

The lady shielding her eyes as the sun washes her in beautiful warmth was the first thing that caught my eye. I wondered how I could take a shot in the small cafe without drawing attention to myself and ruining the moment. Thankfully this is where my 50mm lens came in handy. The second shot was a sneaky and creepy shot under the table. I saw the toilet rolls she brought into the shop and I recall thinking she must have bought it from the Superette (Dairy, convenience store) a couple of doors down. I did not think much more then. But looking at it now, I realise there could be a humorous Covid19 statement in the photo. Unfortunately I’m not witty enough for a smart caption.

Smells like Singapore

I left Singapore on 30 Dec 2004, arriving in Auckland New Zealand on 31 Dec 2004 just in time to welcome in a new year, a new life. The decision to leave Singapore, known as OE (Overseas Experience) in NZ, was made in a short space of 2 months. The window of opportunity snuck open on my trip to Vietnam and was fully prised open following a quick trip in late Oct early November. The story about leaving the safe shores of Singapore to give New Zealand a chance is a story for another day.

Photos in this post were taken from my trip back to visit mum in Nov 2019.

As much as I love and call New Zealand home, Singapore still retains a pull in my heart as the place of my birth and where I lived for 28 year years. It is a place of wonderful childhood memories and painful awkwardness that mark a young person’s rite of passage.

I cringe at the recollection of those events in my life where I was so certain. So certain that I was trendy in my stone washed jeans, so certain that I was in love and so certain I got everything figured out. Only in retrospect and with the passage of time can I laugh at that confidence. This is not to say I am brave enough to face all those memories head on.

Every memory of Singapore seems to be held together by humidity, my community of family and friends and good food. Singapore is a multicultural and multiracial country. A country of migrants, a member of the commonwealth and a country forced to grow up very quickly. As fortunate I was to grow up in Singapore, I feel that I did not really make use of the opportunity to experience the diversity I was surrounded by.

Being an introvert (with strong extrovert tendencies), I prefer quality to quantity in terms of friendships. However, in a country with a population of 4.5million, I think I really missed the boat to build more quality friendships with people from different races and cultures. I only had a handful of non Chinese friends. But thankfully those friendships were wonderful. My exposure to different cultures came from food. I love Indian, Malay, Peranakan, Chinese the melting pot cuisines that came from the rojak (mixing) of all these cultures.

Life in Singapore like many places in the world can be as simple or complex as we make it. Conformity is generally the norm but it does not mean there aren’t a lot of avenues for self expression. Living in a populous small island country does mean respecting other people’s beliefs and space but even in those confines, creative expression abounds and the sad thing is that I only being to uncover that level of creativity after I left Singapore. Thankfully I still have family and friends who share the work of those amazing creatives with me even when I’m in New Zealand. Here are some of the creatives and organisations I like.

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