In Singapore domestic help live with their employers during their six day work week. They have Sundays off and usually spend it with their friends. That’s no different from anywhere else. Except that in Singapore, there aren’t a lot of public spaces for masses of people to meet. A favourite hub is the Lucky Plaza mall on Orchard Road. Thousands of people pour into the area on Sundays. Think Black Friday and Boxing Day shopping crowds. Or the Rogers Center after a Blue Jays game. Or New Years Eve at Nathan Phillips square. Lots and lots of people.
Normally, I avoid crowds but I’d signed up for a workshop on ‘Documentary Story-telling’. Our group exercise was to craft a photo essay on Filipina maids spending their Sunday on Orchard.
It’s a hard life being a maid, cleaning and caring for one family while living far away from your own. Many come from the Philippines, Indonesia and Myanmar. Typically, they’ll work two years before getting vacation for home trips. It’s no wonder that on their day off, they reach out to their compatriots and spend the time socializing.
Thomas our workshop teacher, gave us hints for taking surreptitious street photos. The tip I liked the most was how to take photos with a cell phone in one hand. It helps to have a long fingers and a good camera phone. I have neither but with practise and my credit card, I think I could master it.
Thomas did not spend a lot of time on technicalities, his focus was on messaging and mood capturing. Sometimes it involved taking imperfect pictures. Pictures which by themselves were un-interesting but as part of a whole, made sense. Conversely, there were pictures which were fine by themselves but as part of a whole, did not connect with the others.
Here is the photo essay on Filipina Sunday Day Off. There is one disconnected picture. Can you find it?
Photo credit to my partners Luc and Patricia.
Orchard Rd, Singapore. April 2016
If you’re in Singapore and would like to attend Thomas Tham’s “Art of Storytelling Documentary” workshop, check it out here.