Three photographers – Danny Santos, Megat Ibrahim Mahfuz, and Sam Kang Li – are taking to the streets and reaching out to the wider community.
In our cosmopolitan city, local arts practitioners are going against the oft-held notion of the artist-as-solitary-creature. Rather than being confined to their private studio spaces, three photographers – Danny Santos, Megat Ibrahim Mahfuz, and Sam Kang Li – are taking to the streets and reaching out to the wider community. With Singapore’s fast-growing population, these artists are tackling the question of who exactly makes up the 5 million residents of Singapore.
Saying “hi” to strangers
Danny Santos finds his inspiration along one of Singapore’s busiest streets, Orchard Road. Santos approaches strangers and asks to take close-ups, resulting in a series of portraits that are at once disarming and surprising. “I’ve been trying to create an overall image of the beauty and energy of Orchard Road through the different characters and scenarios found in this busy street of Singapore”, says Santos. The series, when viewed in its entirety, reveal a diverse sampling of people that goes far beyond Singapore’s four major ethnic groups of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian cultures.
Danny Santos’s street shots.
Photos copyright of Danny Santos. More photos viewable at www.dannyst.com/
Working in a similar vein, also in public spaces, Megat Ibrahim Mahfuz finds “a sort of personal space where my subjects go about their daily lives.” Unlike Santos, Megat’s approach is less upfront, but no less engaging. In the photographer’s experience, “there are moments however which are especially significant in their own way. People have come up to me, curious about what I’m doing or whether I work for the press. These are moments where my camera, my images become a more than a medium for visual expression but a tool that bridges the gap between my subjects and myself, even though sometimes we have very little in common or come from very different worlds.”
Megat Ibrahim Mahfuz’s shots at common spaces in Singapore.
Photos copyright of Megat Ibrahim Mahfuz. More photos viewable at www.agimageworks.com/
Getting to know your community
The idea of the arts as a channel or platform for social interaction is encapsulated by the work of 27-year-old photographer, Sam Kang Li, who takes photographs of his neighbours in their doorways. Through the National Arts Council’s Pocket Rocket programme, Kang Li’s project stemmed from the simple desire to get to know the residents in his neighbourhood better.
In community arts, the creative process can be equally important as the artistic outcome. It not only allows artists to engage in creative activity with the people around them, but also provides a way for communities to express themselves. For Kang Li, “it is really satisfying for [him] to see people actually inviting themselves into the pictures and inviting themselves into the conversations.” Through his project, the residents of his neighbourhood now know one another better, and engage in conversations when they pass by each other on the street.
Sam Kang Li’s photographs of community.
Photos copyright of Sam Kang Li. More photos viewable at samkangliphotos.com/
Since its independence, Singapore has always been a melting pot of different races and religions. Its ever expanding populace ensures that our mix of cultures will continue to evolve. The works of Santos, Ibrahim Mahfuz, and Sam Kang Li, are examples of efforts to get to know ourselves as a nation of individuals in a genuine and realistic manner. . For Ibrahim Mahfuz, “I find that the street work I do not only helps me see and notice those little moments we all take for granted but facilitates my urge to go out and meet interesting people, encounter interesting situations and also change my own perspective of my life [as] life in general is all aboutconnect[ing] with others.”