We photographers try to put ourselves in the most remote of places to uncover incredible untold stories, or to photograph the best sunrises and sunsets. Having documented numerous stories at home in Singapore and abroad, mostly centred around social issues, people would often ask which are my favourite photographs or which body of work am I most proud of.
What many fail to realise is that while I am extremely committed to my work as a photojournalist and documentary photographer, there is a set of photographs that trumps everything else. These are images that we all can make, whether we’re professional photographers or not. They may look quite different from one another but the images are common in that they are both raw and authentic.
Nothing can be more genuine than photographs you take of your loved ones.
The most common photography saying is probably that it helps freeze a moment in time. That did not make much sense in the past until you realise how many moments you’ve missed by not recording them. There is no excuse especially in this digital era where there are so many ways of doing so, and cheaply. Even if it’s just on our phones — those too are really, really beautiful memories.
When I was young, my grandmother took care of my siblings and I while my parents went to work in the day. She also made sure to take photographs of us with her trusty film camera, sometimes a one-time use one. As kids, we sometimes would detest having to pose for photographs — we just wanted to have fun and do whatever we wanted. But one thing she said stuck with me especially when I picked up photography.
“Just take these photographs. Next time when you grow older you’ll thank me for it.”
She was right.
It’s very difficult for us to remember things during our childhood days. But one thing’s for sure: The photographs she took of us helped jolt back memories. Were they well-exposed, properly composed? I don’t know really. That did not come to my mind at all. They were jam-packed with memories.
That changed my approach to photography all together, in both my personal work and in my professional capacity. Do I only strive for that few photographs that everyone pat a back on my shoulder and say it’s a good photograph? It feels good, maybe in that moment. What stays with me all the time are in fact the photographs I’ve made that help cement a memory for others.
Do I wait and photograph my family members only when the situation is nice, the light is good? I’m afraid not. I’m never that good a photographer to watch out for these elements anyway. What I do know is that these photographs will live on as precious memories.
I urge you to forget about the best images that you might be able to get with the best cameras, going to the most exotic of locations.
This is one of my only few images of my maternal grandmother, who passed a few months ago. I had a camera and I did not take more photographs, why? The rest in a series under my personal work are of her funeral.
Time passes quickly. I think photography was made for us to photograph our family. Sometimes, unfortunately, they go before we know.
Your favourite photographs, like mine, should and will be of your loved ones.