Photographers' Blog

Singapore – Gateway to Asia

Singapore

By Edgar Su

Singapore’s port is one of the busiest in the world and has long been a key part of the island’s economy. I took some time last year to document the shipping hub, and was surprised to see how closely life in Singapore is linked to it.

Walking along the coast on a fine day, you’ll see countless ships anchored in the sea around the city-state. At East Coast Park, where many leisure activities take place, I saw a group of school girls conducting soccer training as tankers lined up to make a call at the port. It was quite a peculiar scene – in the foreground daily life was going on, but in the backdrop a massive industry was working around the clock to get cargo shipped or vessels refueled.

Even from atop Singapore’s iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel – a modern landmark that houses some of the most lavish entertainment for visitors spending top dollar – you have a full view of vessels waiting silently for their turn to enter the port.

According to its Maritime and Port Authority, Singapore sees around 140,000 calls from vessels every year. Its many terminals work around the clock to serve them, often handling 60,000 containers a day.

From a height of more than 10 storeys, through the glass bottom of a crane driver’s cockpit, I could see trucks lining up in an orderly fashion to deliver the unloaded containers as a group of managers sat in control rooms monitoring every aspect of the operations. As soon as a container was unloaded, the radios blared instructions for the next one on the list. Time is money, and there was no time to waste.

Singapore’s hazy skyline

Singapore

By Edgar Su

As someone who has lived in Singapore all my life, haze is not unusual, it is somewhat a seasonal event that I have become used to. But last Monday was different, I woke up to a slightly smokey smell in the air and the view outside my apartment was more hazy than usual. Immediately, I checked Facebook to see what my friends working in the city were experiencing. Many posted pictures of a very hazy skyline from the view in their office and remarked that even the air in the subway and malls smelled of smoke.

I immediately made my way to the business district to have a look. My first instinct was to get up to the rooftop of the Marina Bay Sands hotel to get the best vantage point available in the city. On the way up, a hotel staff member apologized to me in the elevator, “I am sorry for the view today”. He was right, from the observation deck, the haze was so thick that I could only see the outlines of landmark buildings.

There on the 57th floor, I could feel no breeze. It was very humid, my chest felt tight and I found it hard to breathe carrying all my gear with me. I needed that one picture showing a human element against the hazy skyline and I knew it was at the poolside which only hotel guests had access. My only option was to wait to join one of the three daily scheduled tours of the pool for the public. So I waited two hours in the humidity before a tour guide came along and brought us in. “Take as many pictures as you want” he said. The only problem was, it wasn’t exactly a tour of the pool, we were only allowed in a small 20 yard stretch shared among at least 40 other tourists with cameras and we had only about fifteen minutes. Worse still, many of the hotel guests were suddenly getting out of the pool because of all the tourists looking at them. But I was lucky, just before I was about to leave, a man began swimming in front of us…

Trading fear for photos on a stricken plane

We took off smoothly for the short flight from Singapore to Jakarta, and I started falling asleep. Suddenly I was woken up by the sound of two bangs, like a bomb or truck tire blowing out. My wife gripped my hand and asked “Do you smell something burning?” Yes, there was a sharp smell stinging my nose. I realized there was something wrong because all the stewardesses ran back with the food carts.

The plane started to vibrate, harder and harder. I held my wife’s hand tightly and looked at her face as she started praying. My two younger children were asleep, after their first ever trip abroad, but not Pradipta, the eldest one. “Pra look through the window and watch outside,” I said. “I see light, I see fire, I see fire,” he said. Then the electricity was switched off.

I realized the plane, an Airbus A330, had a big problem. I was afraid because I thought we would die. Pradipta looked into my eyes and asked: “Will we die?” I was afraid and could not answer the question. I looked at all my children’s faces and held my lovely wife’s hands tightly.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures January 23 2011

As India heads towards their Republic Day celebrations, Prime Minister Singh makes minor adjustments to his cabinet while outside on the streets people demonstrate over food and fuel price inflation and corruption. Adnan Abidi produces a great picture as a middle-aged demonstrator gets to feel the full force of a police water canon. In stark contrast, B Mathur gets a glimpse of the dress rehearsal of the full military parade planned to celebrate India's independence where the security forces are deployed in a somewhat different manner.  Danish Siddiqui added to the file this week with a well seen picture to illustrate a government spending initiative with a man pulling a pipe across a building site, the shadow creating an eye like image that almost seems to wink at the viewer.  

INDIA/

Police use water canons to disperse supporters of India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during a protest in New Delhi January 18, 2011. Thousands of the supporters on Tuesday in New Delhi held a protest against a recent hike in petrol prices and high inflation. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

INDIA/

Indian Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers ride their camels during the full dress rehearsal for the Republic Day parade in New Delhi January 23, 2011. India will celebrate its Republic Day on Wednesday. REUTERS/B Mathur

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures August 15, 2010

Flooding and mudslides have again dominated the week's coverage in Asia. Reports that one fifth of Pakistan is now under water and over 20 million have been affected by the rising waters. In the northwestern Chinese province of Gansu over a 1000 people lost their lives as a mudslide swept through the town of Zhouqu. It is easy to become visually tired looking at images of people wading waist deep in flood water or seeing another image of a relative weeping for a loved one. In the pictures below even the most jaded eyes and souls must feel the passion of the pictures as photographers tell the story and bring home the desperation of their subject's plight.

Adrees Latif, chief photographer Pakistan, captures a moment that if it wasn't so sad would almost be funny. People, whose lives have been shattered by flooding, loss of their homes, hunger and the risk of disease suffer the final humiliation as a relief truck sweeps by driving water over their heads, the driver oblivious of the scene. In another picture  in a  camp for the displaced  Karachi based photographer Akhtar Soomro photographs a boy sitting in isolation who hurriedly eats, his eyes glaring out of the image as he keeps guard in case someone, imagined or real, tries to steal his food.

PAKISTAN-FLOODS/

Residents being evacuated through flood waters dodge an army truck carrying relief supplies for flood victims in Pakistan's Muzaffargarh district in Punjab province August 11, 2010. The floods have ploughed a swathe of destruction more than 1,000 km (600 miles) long from northern Pakistan to the south, killing more than 1,600 people.   REUTERS/Adrees Latif

Casinos and coasters: A Singapore life

Recently I covered the opening of Singapore’s first casino with my colleague Pablo Sanchez. It’s a big change for a city where gambling used to be illegal. You might be interested to know that to pacify folks who said it would lead to the moral downfall of Singapore, the government introduced an “entrance levy” of S$100 as a deterrent.

GENTING-SINGAPORE/

It only applies to Singaporeans and Permanent Residents, everyone else including foreigners who work here get to enter for free. Photography is banned inside and Pablo and I had barely 15 minutes on opening day to shoot as much as we could. It was complete chaos, as every other person with a still or video camera was trying to do the same thing.

GENTING-SINGAPORE/

SINGAPORE-CASINO/

A few days ago Southeast Asia’s first Universal Studios theme park opened in Singapore, and I was lucky to be among the first people in the place. The highlight is a “dueling roller coaster”, where 2 coasters are launched at the same time and cross each other as they run on the track.

Bank picture ballet

Singapore can be a strange place to make pictures sometimes. As someone who’s lived here for nearly 5 years, on occasion my job as a photographer is affected in unusual ways.

Singapore is a place where  rent-a-cops often don’t know the rules, other than “you’re wrong”. They’re really good at overstepping the bounds of their legal authority, and even though you know for a fact they are wrong and should just let you go about your work, no amount of reason or logical argument means anything to them. They are like the daleks in Doctor Who, out to exterminate photographers. Their authority as gatekeepers is final.

SINGAPORE/

Every few months, this results in something I like to call the “Bank Picture Ballet”, where usually 2-3 security guards and myself get involved in a ridiculous dance around each other as I try to make a perfectly legitimate picture to match an economic story.

Singapore F1: A timelapse view

Photographer Tim Chong captures the momentus Singapore Grand Prix, the first Formula One race to be held at night.

A slow boat to Myanmar – nearly

I was at the airport shooting pictures to illustrate a Singapore Airlines story when the office rang to say there was an opportunity, if we could move quickly enough, to embed with the U.S. Naval relief operation heading to cyclone hit Myanmar.

malucca sunset

Early the next morning I was aboard a U.S. Navy supply ship heading up the Malacca Strait. There were 8 journalists on board – writers, a BBC tv reporter and cameramen, and 3 photographers. It was a 2 day trip up to the USS Essex, and with little else to do on board, I photographed the crew preparing supplies which would be transferred when we arrived. With only experience of ferries to go on I’d feared getting horribly seasick – but was holding up okay, and excited about what we’d find when we got to the Navy ships.

heloride

We transferred to the Essex by helicopter. I quickly learned to use the word “helo” – pronounced “heelow” – as no one seemed to understand me when I said “chopper”. The supply ship had been crewed by ex-navy “civilian mariners”, but I’d been warned that things would be “different” on the real Navy ship. And they were.

Stepping into photographer’s shoes…

For sub-editors on Reuters Singapore Picture Desk, one of this year’s performance targets is a “shooting assignment”. They have to select and plan a valid photographic assignment and then shoot pictures for the wire. The exercise is intended to give them practical insight into the working lives of busy photographers in the field and the decisions and operational challenges they face on a daily basis. 

Shahida Patail is one such sub-editor.

Sha

Up until now my picture taking had been limited to holiday snaps and friends’ weddings but the thought of shooting a picture for the Reuters wire was certainly appealing.

In my eagerness I decided to go to Arab Street and on a working day to boot. There was no concrete idea in my head, but I kept thinking of the colourful shop houses and the much-photographed Sultan Mosque and felt confident that I’d be able to find a subject. Luckily, before leaving the office, my boss Pedja Kujundzic suggested a possible angle – old buildings contrasted with new buildings.

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