I didn’t know what I was looking for when I first started going out armed with a DSLR camera in hand. I didn’t even know how to use a DSLR camera properly. I only roughly knew what each knob controlled. All I knew was that I wanted to shoot pictures of people who were often unappreciated, neglected, or ignored.
Besides, walking around with a DSLR hung around my neck seemed to give me license to shoot anything I wanted, without being paisehabout it. It was awesome.
I approached a petrol attendant that night, after circling the petrol kiosk again and again, trying to gather enough courage to ask him for a picture.
I finally did. When I asked for his picture, he started laughing and asked, “Why you want my picture? I handsome ah?” I explained to him about how I was doing this for a school project (which was totally not true). He eventually refused because he was wearing the uniform of the petrol station. I didn’t really understand what he was saying about the uniform, but I gathered that he was uncomfortable and didn’t want his picture taken.
The next day, I attempted to take a picture of a security guard at a mall. She rebuffed me flatly. When pressed, she told me how I couldn’t take pictures inside the mall.
This was turning out to be harder than I had first thought.
Maybe it would be better if I went to East Coast Park to take pictures of people who were having fun instead of people who were working. I was really afraid. How if everyone there refused to let me take pictures of them? Then this “project” would be over before it even started.
As I passed by a canal on my way to East Coast Park, I stumbled upon an Indian who was gazing at the water and sheepishly, I asked if I could take his picture. He deliberated for a while and throughout this time, I was preparing my heart for another cruel rejection. Please! Not again!
But he finally agreed and my heart breathed a sigh of relief. It didn’t have to cope with the demands of another rejection.
Fiddling with the knobs controlling the aperture, shutter speed and ISO, I didn’t really know how to get a good picture but I just decided to release the shutter.
It wasn’t a bad picture, considering that I had only started learning about all the fancy knobs three days ago.
I took the chance to ask him about his life and he revealed that he is a Bangladeshi, working in Singapore as a construction worker. He has only been here for 1 month but he thinks Singapore is “very nice”.
He works 6 days a week, from 8am to 7pm and only earns $32 a day. Taking into account his rest times and lunch break, that’s about $3 an hour. $3!
“Why are you alone here? Do you have friends?” Looking back now, that was quite an insensitive question to ask. There’s not a lot of time to make new friends here, he says. “After working, makan finish, sleep.”
It’s unappreciated people like this that make me want to continue with this. We often complain about the influx of foreigners into our land, making our beloved land more unruly, more chaotic and more cramped.
But a lot of times, we fail to recognise that these are people with families to feed as well, and they have merely moved here in search for better opportunities, to provide their families back home with a better life.
If we move overseas to work or study, would we also enjoy the natives there deriding us for stealing their opportunities?