#04-131 is where I spent a large part of my life growing up.
This is my first photo series project that documents home as I know it.
My work is a commentary on time, change and the sacredness of home.
I never appreciated my home when I was living in it. I found the 3-room apartment cramped, the interior dated and the space cluttered. I was ashamed of the mismatched furniture and frustrated by the claustrophobia of the space.
After moving out, I started to understand how it's not easy keeping any lived-in space clutter-free. The tendency to hoard is a natural instinct and human flaw. After all, objects, like spaces, are more than material, they occupy more than concrete space. They hold symbolic and sentimental meanings for us. They make time stand still.
Recently, my parents received a mandatory notice to "upgrade" the toilets after failing a water test. Everything would be hacked and re-furnished. They also decided they would repaint the house.
Because of this, I suddenly had an urge to document my home as I remembered it growing up. I went around the house with my camera phone and tried to make sense of this familiar place through the camera lens. My only resource was my resolution to commit to memory every mess and wrinkle. That, and my phone.
Boxes are packed and they move out tomorrow. When we come back, things will be different. But I want to remember the chaos and clutter because I know now that's the beauty of my home.
I used my camera phone, a Samsung S8 (which is featured in one of the photographs) to take these photographs. Truly, the camera phone puts photography on a level playing field and democratises the art.
Fuelled by a nostalgic desperation to capture images and memories of home, I went around the house and photographed fragments of the space. I started with the toilet mirror, and worked my way around the house. Some shots are close and tight. That is because it reflects the confined space with which I had to navigate.
The objects in my photographs are not staged, rather, they were taken as they are. I also decided that for this series, all photographs would be raw, unedited and unadulterated.
Esther Vincent teaches Literature at the School of the Arts, Singapore and is co-editor of the poetry anthology Little Things. "#04-131" is her first foray into photography, which is an intimate contemplation of time, change and the sacredness of home. As a poet, she writes poetry that is personal and political, and believes that poetry should empower, not exclude, engage, not evade. Her poems have been published in various print and online publications like Dissident Voice, The Journal of Remembered Arts, Feminine Collective, Into the Void Magazine, Luminous Echoes, New Asian Writing, Eastlit, Unhomed, Sound of Mind and more. Besides poetry, she has always been passionate about reading, travel, theatre, film, photography, architecture, coffee and interior design.
a response to #04-131
It's been three years since I moved out, and two weeks since the home of my youth was renovated.
My parents threw out some furniture--the rattan chair and dining table, amongst others, are gone.
The place I used to know has changed.
Using the same device (my S8), I wanted to respond to the images and memories evoked in #04-131, some of which can never be replicated, simply because the furniture and consequent relationships do not exist anymore. I documented my present home, focusing on similar spaces. As such, you will see recurring motifs like the mirror and bed, and parallel spaces, like the toilet, kitchen, living room and bedroom, although this time, the first photo I took was in fact of the empty whiskey bottles in my living room, and not the toilet mirror.
The photos here have been edited to 25% brightness, contrast and saturation, to create a slight overexposed effect which blurs the line between reality and imagination. Unlike #04-131, the mood of this series is not nostalgic, but rather sterile.
As I examine these images again, I ask myself, is this what modern living truly means? Stacks and stacks of residential housing and characterless spaces? Could there be any correlation between the mass and generic nature of built-to-order (BTO) flats and the sameness of the individual homes that inhabit them? I had taken more than a year to painstakingly hand-pick each piece of furniture and accessory in my house, most of which are recycled, but how is it that the photos depict a cold, clinical and characterless space?
I suppose this is what it means to have a "cozy home"; it takes a great deal of time to grow into a space for a space to grow into you.
And so I realise that #14-517 is actually a wistful longing for #04-131.
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