Where home is the toilet, a farm or one’s family

Singaporean photographer Beverly Chew explores the idea of the toilet as a space where individuals feel most uninhibited and attuned to their inner selves, in her collection of photographs, Private Business.

A new photo exhibition featuring works by aspiring photographers will have you take a second look at your home.

The Shooting Home Youth Awards Class of 2019 Exhibition is organised by the centre for photography and film, Objectifs, and it runs until 29 Nov in its gallery in Middle Road. The show presents works by 11 photographers, between the ages of 15 and 23, who were part of Objectif’s two-week mentorship programme, Shooting Home Youth Awards, last year. 

The youth explore the idea of home in their photographs, and they were mentored by photographer and visual artist Joseph Nair, photographer and educator Nurul Huda Rashid, documentary photographer and filmmaker Grace Baey, and photographer and director Juliana Tan. 

Three participants from the mentorship programme — Nanyang Technological University undergraduate Beverly Chew, secondary school student Suhani Gupta, and LASALLE College of the Arts undergraduate Kiat Tan, share the inspiration for their works in the show, and what “home” means to them. 

In her photographic series, Krishak, Suhani Gupta documents a group of Bangladeshi migrant workers employed on a farm in the outskirts of Singapore. 

Tell us about your photographs in the show. 

Gupta: They document and tell the untold story of Bangladeshi workers on farms in Singapore.

Chew: Coming from a big family, the toilet was always a sacred space where I felt uninhibited and free. My work explores the toilet as a private sanctuary, and it shows shots of individuals in this space at their most vulnerable. I hope people will see the value of this space through my eyes.  

Tan: I wanted to explore and better understand my own relationship with my paternal grandmother. My younger cousin, who was living with her at that point of time, thus became a way for me to revisit the interactions I once had with her. Ultimately, I wanted to portray love, a sense of belonging, and the value of familial relationships through my photographs.

Singaporean photographer Kiat Tan turns his camera lens on his paternal grandmother for his work, Raise —养(yǎng).

What does “home” mean to you? 

Tan: Home is not a place; home is a feeling of belonging.

Gupta: Home is where I can live without judgement, where I can make mistakes, and where I am not bound by restrictions. Home signifies safety for me, it is where I can be who I am, around people I love. It also signifies freedom – I can explore thoughts and ideas and grow as a person.

Chew: Home is a place, person or memory that comforts me and provides me with a safe place to rest, both physically or mentally. Home is often where my sister, Bethany, is.

Suhani-Krishak-2 photography exhibition
An image from Krishak depicting a Bangladeshi worker freshening up in front of a mirror. 

What is one life lesson you gleaned from your stay-home experience during the Circuit Breaker 

Gupta: To be open-minded and accepting. Singapore is a diverse and modern society filled with people from all walks of life. Everyone has different ideas and opinions to bring to the table, and we can only grow as individuals and as a society when we all accept and learn from one another.

Chew: Having briefly lived in New York City earlier this year when COVID-19 played out, I came to really appreciate the safety, predictability and security that Singapore offers. 

Tan: Closeness is not measured by distance. You can be close in proximity to your loved ones while at home, but still feel distant from them.

(Photos: Artists’ own)

Replies have been edited for clarity. 

Learn more about Shooting Home Youth Awards 2019 Exhibition here

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