when the dust clears

Words about and images of matters political, social, and military

Singapore: Work in progress

with 14 comments

Masjid al Mukminin, Jurong

I have passed the halfway mark of my one-month residency at Objectifs Center for Photography and Filmmaking in Singapore. I’m teaching workshops, making presentations, and working on a project, a series of photographs (with audio and possibly video) about faith and spirituality here.

It took me two weeks of making photos in houses of worship to get any perspective on what I have actually been producing. I realized that the photographs are less about people’s “faith” and much more about the places of worship themselves and the rituals performed there.

Sri Krishnan Temple (Hindu), Waterloo Street

To gain access to these places, I have behaved like a journalist, trudging from mosque to church to temple (and telephoning as well), approaching officials, and asking for permission to photograph and record interviews. So far, I have made my pitch at roughly a dozen houses of worship, been granted varying levels of access at six, turned down by two, and don’t-call-us-we’ll-call-youed by the rest.

Hong San Si (Daoist), Kembangan

Once I have gained access, however, I have responded more like a visual artist than a reporter. I’m now working from a distance, often from the side or behind, not getting in people’s faces. I’m trying to portray something essential about the rituals of worship without turning them into exotic spectacles, and I’m trying to balance my literal, newsman’s impulse with my desire to be more lyrical.

Masjid Sultan, Kampong Glam

I think that by backing off I have granted myself a reprieve (subconsciously) from my usual journalistic confronting and prodding. But I’m also responding to the sacredness of these spaces for the worshippers. I’m not religious. In fact, I’m a rather hardheaded secular humanist. I am deeply mistrustful—and sometimes afraid—of people who use religion as a weapon to diminish, divide, and destroy those who don’t practice as they do. But I have encountered a number of exceptional people of faith in my 20-plus years as a traveling journalist/human—men and women for whom belief, not simply religion, is the organizing principle of their lives. I don’t have to understand or emulate them, but I respect them. So rather than poking and prodding people here to explain and justify their faith, I’m doing my best to look and listen.

Bethesda Chapel, Kembangan

More to follow.

16 April 2010

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Written by bxpnyc

2010/04/16 at 10:29

14 Responses

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  1. The pictures are beautiful…

    I’m from Singapore btw. S’pore is a multi-racial and cultural place. Lots to see and learn from here:)

    chariot13

    2010/04/16 at 13:36

  2. great images!
    thanks for sharing

    http://www.tracyzhangphoto.wordpress.com/

    Tracy

    2010/04/16 at 13:59

  3. beautiful, brian. your words as well as the images. this is the smoothest, most insightful and accessible explanation of where you are literally, emotionally, professionally. i’m so happy to see this. and congrats for wordpress front page run. B

    Bari

    2010/04/16 at 16:33

  4. Great – I am particularly impressed by the Singapore’s progess in such short time. Adam Khoo, one of the youngest millionaire of Singapore has also narrated Singapore’s success in his book and one of the lessone I learnt was: Nothing is impossible. You may read more on http://wp.me/pHUHq-9e

    It was really nice to see a journalist with such ideas to listen to religious people and take photos. We look forward for more picture and more experience sharing from your side

    Malik Mirza

    2010/04/16 at 17:35

  5. this is great a steping back was a great idea

    Gerard H. Gaskin

    2010/04/16 at 17:51

  6. Singapore is a great place. Nice pictures.

    Remain.Simple

    Remain.Simple

    2010/04/16 at 20:25

  7. it is interesting to see this other aspect of the ways you see appear in this new body of work. I am looking forward to watching it unfold.

    Ian Summers

    2010/04/16 at 20:28

  8. It is lyrical and dream-like. Wonderful seeing and hearing the process and discoveries of making these photographs.

    Yuko Uchikawa

    2010/04/17 at 01:21

  9. oh my God, that’s really cleanness, clean people, human being peace in the world, greeting for Indonesia

    soepri

    2010/04/17 at 02:11

  10. nice picture.. interesting blog.. 🙂

    Simon

    2010/04/17 at 04:34

  11. Great photos!

    Kris

    2010/04/17 at 06:34

  12. […] Singapore: Work in progress from when the dust clears – Great pictures from the far side of the world. […]

  13. I found your site from the WordPress.com page which has several sites that are strong enough to make the page.
    Your site is wonderful and beautiful..
    Thanks.

    unforgivens

    2010/05/18 at 20:14

  14. […] The busiest day of the year was April 16th with 612 views. The most popular post that day was Singapore: Work in progress. […]


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