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.


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.

Off I went only to find all my enthusiasm melted in the searing heat as I realized I had no idea what to shoot. I ended up taking random images. I couldn’t seem to find the right angle to deliver the shots I had in mind. The shop houses suddenly seemed more dirty than colourful, and every building seemed to be blocked by those blasted trees and lampposts.

And every time I tried to take a photo with people in it, they would quickly turn or walk away. My hopes were raised when I saw one foreign worker sitting in a corner of an old shop house, tiffin carrier in hand as he prepared to eat his lunch. I was already fantasizing  about the wonderful portrait picture it would make, when he saw me and got up rather menacingly. Panicked, I abruptly turned my camera away and pretended to be shooting an adjacent building. When I felt brave enough to look back in his direction again, he was gone.