a day of mixed circumstances
today is what i would call a day of mixed circumstances. of course we encounter different situations daily, but for a day to be actually termed as such, some really unusual things must have happened.
i was out today helping my friend mop up the remnants of the singtel project that i blogged about earlier. i popped in and out of mrt stations so many times that i am pretty sure i am on some watchlist now. i traveled around so much that it was like playing “who wants to explore singapore via the pride of the transport system… and on foot?”, except that it wasn’t really fun because the latter contestant had a severe disagreement with my sandals. still, it was a great way to visit places that i normally wouldn’t go to.
my camera was switched on and hanging by my side the whole time. what this meant was that i could have gotten some street photography done while moving about. but of course that is wishful thinking.
street photography is a discipline in every sense of the word – it is a discipline upheld by a lot of skill and a bit of luck. luck is when the various elements come together to form a potential photograph. skill is recognising those moments – the play of light, fleeting expressions on faces, when people fall into geometrical rhythm with the environment they occupy, humour, etc. – and maneuvering the camera quickly enough to capture them.
sometimes you make your own luck, sometimes you don’t.
it is not everyday that 3 photo opportunities that could potentially produce the photographer’s best pictures all year appear in a single day. that was exactly what happened to me today. sad to say, i allowed 2 of them to slip away. even the one that i got was shot only when i passed by a second time, and the subject was well… static.
some of you would probably recognise this scene. this was shot underground en route from citylink mall to suntec city. the moment i saw this i thought it was absurd on 2 levels – this man was placed to guard a section that isn’t even completed yet, and how the wall in front of him with the little door is supposed to be an “obstruction”. yet he is completely exposed, moreover from behind. the way the light fell in the scene draws the viewer’s attention to him. and yes, he is the static subject.
so that was the one i didn’t missed. now for the 2 i did:
this is how the frame above should have been filled. the location is a few metres into citylink mall, right outside breadtalk. the subject of the photo is a man, that is, if i can even call him that. he has short, fashionably-cropped hair. a pair of gigantic purple shades hides almost half his face. he is dressed in an outfit of mindbending colours in swirls – purple, light blue, yellow, emerald, mainly purple. he is not a man, he is a bird of paradise.
on his shoulder he carries a tote bag, a really HUGE tote bag – the size of a functional notice board. let’s put it this way, he certainly has gained the notice that he desires. his message to the world is swiftly delivered on the wings of his confident, devil-may-care strides. we hear you, brother. but he is not a man, he is a pigeon with a mission. breadcrumbs.
it was truly an incredible sight, a moment i would have chosen to freeze in time by preserving the motion of his movement through space. slow the shutter, tracking him as he moved along, oblivious to the rest of the world. but of course i didn’t, and the consequence is that my words can never do enough justice.
the second one that i missed: raffles mrt station, exit f. while walikng back into the station after exiting robinson road, i came across an indian man frozen in a pose that could have easily been drawn from a dance adaptation of the great indian epics – his right arm was raised in the air, the fingers gracefully curled; his kness bent slightly with his posterior jutting out appropriately to his left; his eyes directed towards the ceiling, a quiet smile on his face.
he too was removed from the world. and even when an elderly malay man proceeded from behind him and leaned in close to inspect his face, he did not flinch – the way a mannequin would, the way all mannequins should.
that, dear readers, was the decisive moment. and i failed to capture it. i would like to think that photography is predatory and that i was merciful, but truth is, i was lazy, i was self-conscious, i was timid. most of all, i was not ready. and you have to be, because the time taken to recover from a surprise is the time that the moments slip away.
point is, opportunities often arise when one least expects them to. the key is to remain alert and ready, because that slip of concentration can cost a lot. and also that i can stop taking banal photographs such as this:
actually, i think the subtle colours in the photo complement each other very well. otherwise, it is as banal as banal does.
on a lighter note, my day was saved not because of any commission or omission on my part, but rather because a bird decided not to use my person as its dumping ground but rather, a piece of paper i was holding. talk about a close shave. i have never had an avian being defecate on me before. may it never happen.
anyway, sarah is going away to europe for 3 weeks. you know what they say – absence makes the heart grow fonder. that was one of the first idioms (is it even called that?) i learned. i will miss her.