Friday, 28 November 2008

At last! Real anti-static cabin blankets.

I had the good fortune to fly the new Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 back to London last weekend and boy, this is a beaut of an aircraft. The attention to detail of the crew was almost impeccable and the inflight grub was also decent. No more 'cattle' class but 'fat-cattles' more like it. I found the space was also generous in economy and the cabin bright and airy, as can be seen in the shot here. The wings are huge and they dip at the tips at rest state. In the air, you notice the tips, due to the huge lift they generate. One thing's for sure, the aircraft is very quiet on take off and during flight, no more than a low 'hum' sound.

In front of each passenger is a huge (by current standards) personal video screen of about 7 inches, which has a narrow angle of view so your neighbour will not be able to see what you are watching. The interactive movie and music selection is enhanced by USB, RCA jack connections and power chargers on each seat. Bravo to KrisWorld inflight entertainment for a comprehensive 'on demand' selection of Hollywood and local titles.

The console remote control is now not annoyingly attached to your armrest but underneath the screen, and is therefore more accessible. The fold out tray has a 'vehicle' style slide-open vanity mirror, I guess to check your hairstyle before disembarking the craft. And, for me, the best piece of news is that the cabin blankets (designed by Givenchy, like the cabin crew's costumes) are truly anti-static.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Featured Artist Series : Deanna Ng

Bali Pasar 07 series © Deanna Ng

My recent trip short trip to Singapore served as an introduction to me in various ways. I was to visit the Biennale, which I will post later. The other was to meet some photographers and galleries in the City; one, being freelance photographer Deanna Ng. (

I came across Deanna's work through her website whilst researching into the photography scene in the Island City. We met at Bugis MRT one evening, and talked about how she came into photography only some 3 years ago, and she now teaches basic photography classes at Objectifs, which we visited, a short walk away. Deanna shoots with a Rolleicord TLR camera and also a digital Nikon DSLR, and freelances commercially, working on medium term projects as well as fitting in with her love for travel. She told me she had just returned from Vietnam, and will be going to South India at the end of the week on a photo workshop.

She describes herself as a documentary photographer, specialising in people, portraits and offbeat travel images. This is a pretty accurate definition from what I can gather from her series on street markets in Singapore, Bali and Siem Reap. Her observational skills are impeccable whilst the 'off-centre' framing and sloping horizontals adds to her signature.

Padang, Indonesia 2006 © Deanna Ng

She eluded that it may be easier for a camera totting female to get more intimate shots than her male counterparts, especially in street markets where her non-threatening and approachable demeanor with her subjects takes on a friendly rapport. The 'hit and run' approach to street photography that so many of us often practice means little for Deanna, preferring the 'ask first, then shoot' philosophy

Jimmy, Singapore © Deanna Ng

By gaining the subject's confidence and connecting through conversation, this allows the photographer a new avenue of opportunity in obtaining different images, often, much more relaxed and unposed pictures as can be seen in her work and in many of the great documentary photographers that we know.

Pit, No.2. Moberly, Missouri © Deanna Ng

In 2006, Deanna was selected to participate in the prestigious Missouri Photo Workshop as an International Participant. Her photo-essay project 'Pit' covered a typical American pastime...stockcar racing on a Saturday night, photographing families in trailers, racing cars and the local enthusiasts. Undoubtedly, she has gained from that experience, as a documentary photographer. By immersing herself within the life story, her pictures are worth more than those taken by a mere visitor.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

CHANG CHIEN-CHI : Doubleness

Adding on to the gallery shows posting, here is another :

Magnum photographer Chang Chien-Chi from Taiwan is staging a major exhibition at the Singapore National Museum, and I popped along to the magnificent building by Fort Canning Park yesterday. The exhibition is showing 3 of his most reported projects, and the theme of the show is titled 'Doubleness'.

Chang Chien-Chi (or 'CC' as he is known, apparently) is a small unassuming, coy man who is the first Asian to join the prestigious Magnum Photo agency, founded by Cartier-Bresson and a few other renown photojournalists. He photographs human relationships of utmost hardship, torn families of immigrants and mental disabilities. Often, as a photojournalist, he immerses himself completely with his subjects, and gains their confidence through living and sharing their plight.

In 'Double Happiness', a series of black and white photographs depict the varied facial expressions of brokered marriages between Taiwanese men and Vietnamese women. Staged weddings of emerge as a conveyor belt of images as couples after couples pose for the 'first kiss' on a raised stage.

The other two series are 'China Town' : a photo-essay following Chinese migrant workers living in cramp and squalid conditions in the Land of Opportunity, New York City..

..and 'The Chain', a disturbing metaphorical portrait study of mental patients of an institute in Taiwan. Inmates are chained together, two by two, often a more able one with a dependent inmate. The bonding and companionship is depicted in a series of life size black and white portraits, arranged around a darkened gallery space adds to the powerful presence of something beyond the true narrative of the images.
Alienation and connection is the metaphorical message here.

The gallery was quiet during my visit, and Mr Chong, a volunteer guide took invaluable time to explain the artist's message to me and another visitor from Sri Lanka. He belongs to a group of volunteers who help national institutions during exhibitions, unpaid, which is highly commendable.

The exhibition was brilliantly staged, with subdued lightning throughout, video projections and well chosen imagery.

As a viewer, each series builds upon the previous, as the Doubleness theme is reinforced despite being of varied subjects, ie : brokered brides and grooms, one searching for love and the other as a way out of poverty, or the migrant father missing his family and wife back in China, or the interdepency of the chained inmates. A thoroughly recommended show.

Doubleness : Photography of Chang Chien-Chi
10 Oct 2008 ~ 4 January 2009
National Museum of Singapore

Slinging it in Singapore (1)

I am spending a few days down south in (not so) sunny Singapore, visiting some local photographers ( more later) and friends, and also trying to catch a couple of exhibitions at the tail end of the SIPF event. So far so good. Singapore always surprises me, in the scale of the City, its efficiency, and the energy of the people.

Things happen here and only for the sake of the greater good. I managed to grab some night shots on my way back to the hotel after dinner and drinks at Bugis with Deanna Ng and John Heng, two local full time practitioners who shared a good conversation about the local photography scene. Earlier I visited Objectifs, a centre for photography and filmaking and met with Emmeline Yong, one of the founders of the outfit and grabbed chee cheong fun with them.

One cannot help but to compare Singapore with Malaysia, the food, transportation, the cost of living etc..One thing is for sure, is that the City runs on a different pulse to KL. KL is frenetic, but feels like its suffering from an arterial blockage, the Lion City, its just as busy and crowded,..but there is a constant rush to get somewhere, not unlike Tokyo. The arteries are clear. The sluggish, 'laid back-ness' (?) is missing. Mind you, I'm pretty laid back, so strolling along the wide pathways seems like a slo-mo clip in real time.

Oh, the rain is the same here, just as torrential and electrifying.(.more to come..)

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Soraya Yusof Talismail : Imaging Selfs

Once in a while a notable solo-exhibition comes along, and then there are two. Just like waiting for the Number 14 bus. Except, this exhibition, by SorayaYusof Talismail is 6500 miles from the Leibovitz show, and it so happens to coincide with my trip to KL. Soraya is a traditional portraitist photographer at its best.

In 'Imaging Selfs', a complete and accomplished body of work which started 15 years prior comes to fruition at the Galeri Petronas, KLCC in the form of 72 black and white portraits, sudies and installations of local Malaysian artistes and practitioners, including Yasmin Ahmad, Yee I Lann, and Ahmad Fuad Osman.

There are some memorable portraits which I particularly liked, mostly staged. A few are candid moments, like that of Yasmin Ahmad. The show is generally presented well, but I personally found the photo installations slightly out of place.

This is the first time I step foot at the Galeri Petronas, as my last 3 attempts over the last 2 years was unsuccessful. The gallery was in-between shows and thus closed. My 'Malaysians' and 'Outside Looking In : Kuala Lumpur' books are stocked at the little bookstore there, and that is open daily.

As a top gallery venue in KLCC, I was however a little disappointed that visitors have to check their own bags into little lockers not unlike those in a gym. They could at least have a proper system like in a hotel or function venue. They gallery lighting system is also patchy in some quarters.

All in all, definitely a show worth visiting, as Soraya's approach to her subjects is meticulous and her selection of subtle and some dramatic lighting lends to a variety of styles in her photography showing the breadth and depth in her work.

Imaging Selfs run till the 18th January 2009.
Galeri Petronas, Level 3, Suria KLCC, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tues - Sun 10am - 8pm
Free Admission