Below is a recent set of B&W street photographs taken locally to be added to my ongoing ever captured "B&W Street Photography in Asia" portfolio. These B&W images can also be viewed at my Flickr photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/jenniferteophotography/
These images were taken at Singapore Chinatown, an authentic and vintage place which is forever bustling with locals and tourists strolling in and out of the area. It is definitely a great opportunity for street photography. Singapore’s Chinatown district is compact enough to see the major sites on foot in one day. The main sites are temples, shophouses and markets. I like the markets and shops because they represent some of Singapore’s dying trades – from cobblers to watch repair men. Location, location, location – this is really what it is all about in street photography. I choose places where people interact with one another and times when they are present.
Yet, with the proliferation of newer attractions and malls, the young are also drawn to this place for its variety and the sense that this place symbolises a part of their history. Though Chinatown is considered a touristy spot, i don’t just go for all the touristy shots, i will always try to get ‘behind the scenes’ and ‘real life’ scenes. This street photography tip is also applied in all my overseas travel trips.
If you look at the below images, you will also see they have an interesting “story” behind them. Hope you enjoy this little mini-photo essay titled "A Day In The Life of Singapore Chinatown" through my eyes.
As one walks towards the steel and glass canopy in Pagoda Street, you would feel like you are in the middle of everything and also nowhere. This is the time to bring out your camera and capture the baroque and Victorian inspired establishments, colorful shops, calligraphy vendor, lanterns and the busy people in and around - all in one frame. Trust me, this would be one of your most treasured snapshots of the entire Singapore Chinatown album because it practically depicts everything.
Not at all dark and dingy, the lanes that bring you on a nostalgic trip back in time are at present full of bustle and lights. The streets of Chinatown are a major attraction in themselves.
Bustling Chinatown with its busy streets, narrow alleyways, and grungy charm is a favorite base for travelers to Singapore. Pedestrians clog the walkway while browsing through a myriad of goods offered from hawker stalls on both sides of the street. Red lanterns and vibrant signs compete for space overhead while the nearby noodle carts and eateries fill the air with tempting smells.
Each year, especially during Chinese New Year, Chinatown lights up when the stalls come out in full force and the lanes are packed to the brim with customers and tourists. But the unveiling of the Chinatown Street Market is poised to relive the streets of old. In the recent years, stalls along the streets of Chinatown have been peddling wares that range from oriental curios to lovely modern accessories and fashion apparel.
With its sleek skyscrapers, the latest fashion trends and all the entertainment Orchard Road has to offer, Singapore’s downtown district might be an image of hi-tech wizardry but within the city you can still recapture earlier eras. In the busy streets of Chinatown, fortune tellers, calligraphers and temple worshippers are still a part of everyday life.
Taking a walk down Pagoda, Trengganu and Sago streets, i found myslf fully immersed in the vibrant atmosphere that reeked of tradition coupled with a modern style. I love looking at the handicrafts and trinkets which had that quaint antique touch to them. There are also stalls which do henna and temporary glitter tattoos. The times have caught up with such a well preserved heritage cultural pot.
I noticed that some of the stalls are owned by young people who look like they were in their 20s to 30s. What is even better is that their wares are not your usual souvenirs. They sell hand-painted clothes, custom-made jewellery and glassware. If you fancy something more authentically Chinese, take heart for there are stalls which sell geomancy related products, Chinese calligraphy, paper cuttings, traditional toys and lanterns.
Clog makers, fortune tellers, and even Chinese opera mask painters are now back to revive the vanishing trade at the Chinatown street market. The street stalls are the perfect rustic complement to the strapping complexes that have burgeoned around Chinatown.
There is a popular vegetable stall along Smith Street mended by an old couple daily. Customers usually point and make a gesture as to how much they want to buy and this very old lady will weigh out their purchases on her scale. Her seasonal vegtables are completely fresh and absurdly cheap, compared to other wet markets or supermarkets, resulting in a constant string of customers lined up at her stall.
Watching this uncle work is like taking a time machine into the past, with their tanned, aged faces, white / greylish polo shirts or singlets and greying hair, as he delicately displayed his food products for sale in a tray. Sometimes, you can catch other rare sights if you are observant.
The best thing about street photography is that it is possible for the final viewer of a print to see more than the original photographer. One of the great things about a city is that more things are happening, even within a small neighborhood, at any moment than any human can comprehend. Photography allows us to freeze one of those moments and study all of the small dramas that were taking place.
I caught sight of an old lady, toothless and white-haired, sorting out stacks of paper along the side of the hawker centre. She was evidently very old, her back was bent over but she still carried out her task with energy and complete focus. As i approached, she remained unperturbed but as i moved nearer, she looked at me and gave me a wide toothless smile.
Chinatown is an area full of nostalgia for the older generation where you often find some roadside entertainers, groups of them huddling around pagodas, playing chess while others simply sit around and talk or find a little corner of the street to sit and read the newspapers.
Below is a pic of a scraggly looking old man sleeping outside a temple. He don't look homeless, he must be probably too tired and took a short nap wherever it permitted him to do so.
I am still gonna look forward, with much delight, to revisiting Chinatown to continue picking the other pieces of its heritage and savour while I treat myself to B&W street photography. Street photography is not all about spontaneity – if you see a scene with potential, please don’t be afraid to keep coming back to it until you get the shot (Revise the Revisit) !
As a street photographer, i am always ready to pounce. I always have my camera out and ready to shoot at all times. Things can move quickly on the street so if i am not ready, i’ll miss lots of opportunities !!
A freelance Singapore-based travel photographer / photojournalist. I seek the extraordinary, but finds beauty in the everyday. Life is interesting, capture it.
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