By Alyssa Loo (19A13A), Keziah Lam (19A01B), and Mabel Yet (19S03Q)
Photos courtesy to Tian Rui Ying (19S05B)
It isn’t easy to showcase the most vulnerable parts of yourself, much less allow it to be under the close scrutiny of hundreds of strangers. Yet, the Year 5 photographers from Raffles Photographic Society took up the challenge and put up a spectacular exhibition, entitled Meraki. Through just 1 to 2 photos, the photographers told their own unique story by allowing visitors to uncover that sliver of themselves woven into their work.
Meraki: what happens when you leave a piece of yourself in your work.
“We wanted a theme that was broad enough for all of us to be able to capture (haha) and convey, and one that would allow us to showcase our own individual flair, so we chose Meraki, [which means] putting part of yourself into something you’re doing,” said Amy Lin (19A01B).
Despite only joining the CCA less than nine months ago and having to grapple with a tight timeline, the year-end exhibition the Year 5s had curated was nothing short of professional. On November 13, we saw the Stamford Training Room being transformed into a classy yet welcoming exhibition hall, with photographs mounted on panels spanning half of the room, and the other half designated as a performance area for the buskers from Rock and Jazz. As the Vice-Chairperson Rahul (19S06A) put it, it was a “feast for your eyes and ears”.
The room was bustling when we arrived, free popcorn in hand, with some visitors shoving flowers into their friends’ arms and beelining for the photobooth while others marvelled in awe at the works splayed on the panels. Many also chose to sit down to enjoy the performances after touring the exhibition, cheering whenever their friends finished a song.
The atmosphere was exciting as students, parents and photographers alike mingled and admired the photographs in turn, with the creators eager to discuss their works and inspirations. Accompanying each photograph series was an artist statement, which gave us a little insight into what each individual photographer holds dear, and allowed us to better understand the thought process in the creation of their images.
But they’re just photos, right? Anyone can take pictures.
While it is true that most images can technically be taken with a single snap of the camera, the decisions that run through the photographers’ minds both in shooting and editing a photograph is too often overlooked. As Yu Ke Dong (19A13A) observed, “With the edits and the choice of subject matter, each individual style is very distinct. It goes to show that photography extends beyond recording reality and is an art form.”
Some photographers exercised their artistic license right from the shutter. Pok Ruay Ing’s (19S06P) use of a slow shutter speed on a fast moving crowd singles out the still, solitary figure, as such illustrating the loneliness and dizziness of one lost within a faceless city blur. Meanwhile, Li Ruiqi’s (19A01A) and Juay Jin Liang’s (19S06A) fast shutter-speeds seem to stop time itself within a flurry of activity. Their vignettes of water droplets frozen in grainy grayscale, grant viewers silent sanctuary as they peer on a flushed, mid-tournament Ultimate player, and on the cacophony of a rain-veiled, ever-moving city.
Others flourished their craft on the editing stage. Jynelle Ong’s (19S03B) work experiments with overlayed photos of a scene in slightly different angles, evoking surrealism through its double-image effect. The hazy pair of anonymous portraits complement well with the captioned poem written in second-person address,, creating a dreamlike figure that serves as tabula rasa for anyone to project themselves upon.
And some others found photographs when special moments were found in viewfinders. Timothy Low (19S06L)’s photograph captures a gorgeous serendipity of a bicycle being reflected, by a glass roof, into the branches of a tree. Confusing and thus arresting at first glance, the photograph captures both a natural superimposition and figurative imposition of our urbanisation upon the environment.
With similar serendipity, Brendon Loo’s (19S03H) photograph is a frame-in-frame composition of a passing, miniature couple in the bounds of a seaside sculpture. With dynamic yet excellently structured composition and an earthen, pink-tinted colour pallette, Brendon captures a soft yet sobering moment of Man’s inconsequential existence when compared to a world that overflows all frames.
We were also intrigued by this particular portrait of the photographer, Rachel Tan’s (19S03T) brother, his face illuminated by the warm glow of the fairy lights. Her artist statement revealed how parents often swarm their children with enrichment classes with the persistent belief that they are “good for them”, neglecting their child’s passions and strengths as a result.
“This piece represents a wish I had when I was younger– to make the most of my childhood and to live as carefreely as possible,” she explained, not without a twinge of regret. “I didn’t appreciate my childhood until it was gone, and I hope that my brother, the youngest out of my 3 siblings, will be able to live out that dream.”
A Peek into Their Lives
“For someone who doesn’t know any of the photographers, I get a peek into their lives,” said Ellisha Khairi (19A01B), an awed attendee at the exhibition. Ranging from still lifes to scenery shots to portraits of loved ones, the varied choices of topic and style revealed the different interests and personalities of the batch–some took to street photography, others chose scenic shots, and still others chose to capture very personal moments in their own lives.
Curating the Exhibition
Selecting just 1-2 photos from a whole repertoire of images stowed away in memory cards proved to be the most challenging aspect of curating the exhibition, as many of the photographers reflected. After all, it is rare that we take photos for the purpose of having them up on display.
“It’s not just in terms of skill, but [showcasing] your own unique style,” Rahul shared. More than being “aesthetically pleasing”, every photo selected hid its own meaning.
According to RPS member Amy, behind each photograph was a tedious shooting and selection process. The photographers had undergone one-on-one consultations with their instructor Ms Deanna, who prompted them to find their own individual techniques and styles, as well as urging them to consider what kind of emotions and thoughts they wanted to invoke in the audience. After coming together to decide on the theme and flow of the exhibition as a CCA, they came up with the “Meraki” narrative- culminating in the showcase we saw.
Walking out of the exhibition, we felt like we had left an intricately curated and designed world behind. It was certainly inspiring and eye-opening to see the pieces of themselves that the photographers had bravely put on display, and we’re certain that each viewer walked away having discovered something new about themselves too.