Through The Looking Glass and Back Again

January 16, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

In my last entry I mentioned that my first experimentation with the Minolta 18mm ultra wide-angle lens was on a vintage 70’s Minolta 35mm film camera body, an SRT 101 to be exact. After finishing the previous post, I became curious as to what those images looked like and whether I still had them. After a search through my digital archives using Lightroom’s catalog system and keywords, I was able to locate what I think are the first images I made with that lens. The occasion was the annual Fine Art’s Cultural Convention that the school I was teaching photography at, The Singapore American School, happened to be hosting that year. It was in February 2007 and I had organized a photography field trip from our school’s campus into the city for all the visiting students and teachers who were attending the Convention. SAS (Singapore American School) was part of the IASAS (Interscholastic Association of South Asian Schools) conference which was made up of the six large international schools in the region which were located in Bangkok Thailand (ISB), Kuala Lumpur Malaysia (ISKL), Taipei Taiwan (TAS), Jakarta Indonesia (JIS), Manila Philippines (ISM) and Singapore. Each school rotated the responsibilities for hosting the other schools for multiple sports tournaments as well as cultural exchanges throughout the academic year. It was a great honor for students to attend these, and always an exciting time on campus for the hosting school. Without going into too much more detail, we had a busload of about 30 students and teachers. All were issued a plastic Holga "toy" camera and a couple of rolls of color negative film. The idea was to give the students an opportunity to make some creative images in the historic center of the city along the Singapore River. It was also to have a fun outing and for the teachers and students to get to know each other a little better away from the busy schedule of activities on campus. Since the theme was an “alternative camera" adventure, I decided to take the old Minolta camera and the wide-angle lens for a spin. The light meter didn’t work, and the film advance was sketchy, but I remember enjoying running a roll of color negative film through it. After several hours on the town, we all returned to campus and all the exposed film was collected. I had pre-arranged with one of the local photo processors to be ready to receive a bundle of film to process, make 6X4” prints and scan the negs to CD’s. It was all retrieved later that evening so when the students arrived on campus for the next day of activities we distributed their photos and CD's. We asked them to select their best three images from the digital versions and drop them into a shared folder on our Mac network so that they could be projected onto a screen in my classroom for a group critique. As usual their work was imaginative and fun. The teachers also posted their contributions too, which added to the collaborative and positive spirit of the artistic experience. Needless to say it was one of the highlights of that year’s CC (Cultural Convention) and the photo field trip has become a tradition whenever SAS’s turn to host the convention comes around.

So that’s the story behind the origins of this next set of images: 

One of the first images I made with the wide angle lens was this pile of wire and silk decorations. Chinese New Year had just ended and the elaborate decorations in this park were being taken down.

The subject of this image is a bit more focused, I liked how the flowers to be an extension of the natural roots on the right.

I always enjoy making photographs of people and this student group resonated with me. They were sitting outside the Victoria Theater and were from one of the local schools. The wide angle's curved horizon seemed to compliment the arrangement that the students were sitting in.

This image was made in the beautifully restored historic district with the old British colonial government buildings in the background. True to super-organized Singapore form, all the pedicab drivers were in uniform.

There were also a lot of clubs and bars in the area that cater mostly to the expats and tourists. We were there fairly early in the morning and I seem to recall thinking that this young man must be sleeping off the party from the night before.

Fisheye meets fisheye. David was one of the Art teachers from Jakarta, he's holding a Holga Fisheye a bit inside the range of focus for my lens.

 David and two of his students from the Jakarta International School taking a break by the riverside. It's amazing for me to realize that those kids have already finished college and are well into whatever careers they had decided to pursue. I would be surprised if it wasn't something in the creative fields, all the students who were selected to represent their schools at the Cultural Convention were impressively skilled and creative.

A Bum Boat on the Singapore River. At one time these were used as "lighters" which ferried cargo to and from larger ocean going ships anchored in the harbor at the mouth of the river. The old harbor was closed sometime in the late 50's so now they have been recycled for tourist excursions.

A nice contrast between old and modern Singapore. The low rise buildings with the red tiled roofs across the river are in the area called Boat Quay. It was once a bustling commercial center of warehouses and shops where goods coming to and from the port were bought and sold. Now they are mostly restaurants and night clubs.



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