Tag Archives: Photography

Presenting the Past: Chinese Gardens Playtime (Part 5 of 7)

30 Jun

Visitor numbers to the JTC operated Chinese Gardens these days are hardly something to shout about, but once upon a time, it was a popular tourist and Singaporean family hangout. I don’t really remember much of this trip my family made in the 1980s but photos are always there to remind us. 🙂

My brother and I playing at the Chinese Garden

The park was first opened in 1975 and in those days, you had to pay an admission fee and even incur additional charges if you brought a camera into the Gardens! But that did not stop young families visiting the popular park to spend quality family time together, like mine. Nowadays admission is free but the crowds have gone to more modern and popular leisure spots now available on our sunny little island.

I think just about every boy growing up in the 80s would have badgered their parents into buying them a superman cape – it’s so precious to see my brother in his! I don’t really know what I was so happy over though…


Anyway, I was glad to have the opportunity to visit the gardens with my parents again. We didn’t stay long, there wasn’t anything to do there really… Our mission was pretty straightforward – go back to the same spot where the photo was first taken. Unfortunately, there was a metal fence erected in the place where we once played. This was the closest I could get!

My brother and I playing at the Chinese Garden

My brother and I playing at the Chinese Garden


If not for the humidity, I guess it would have been a nice quiet and tranquil spot for people to sit, relax and talk. Times have changed… people would much rather hang out at air-conditioned spaces and who could blame them in this 34 degree celsius heat.

Just before we left the park, my dad insisted that I take a picture at the entrance, which left me really amused cos it just felt so… amusing?! Hahah. Maybe the entrance arches and the stone lions hold some significance that I must be missing.

Me at Chinese Garden gate

Despite being Chinese, the space did not resonate with me and my cultural identity. It felt to me exactly like what it was – a specially designed and constructed space inspired by elements from imperial China and Chinese architecture.

I feel more affinity to the MRT station that shares its namesake – Chinese Garden MRT station – for I have many fond memories of travelling there to reach my dad’s now defunct music school for my music lessons. And of evening escapades for lantern watching during the annual Mid-Autumn Festival with my aunties and cousin.

Last year, the JTC announced that the gardens will be undergoing a year-long refurbishment starting end 2014. I wonder what changes will come again to this oriental Garden in the Western part of Singapore.

Till next post! Hopefully I won’t take so long again.

yuehann’s notes: Today’s post is the fifth in a series of posts first born in reaction to Looking into the Past. Read the very first blog post here & also Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 of the series. And also a related article I wrote for online e-zine Draft (pg 68-73).

EZINE Volume 2 Memory X Space

EZINE Volume 2 Memory X Space


Present(ing) the Past: A Date at MacRitchie Reservoir (Part 3 of 7)

14 Feb

MacRitchie Reservoir – A popular dating spot for couples in the 1970s. This picture was taken at the park’s iconic zig-zag bridge.


The old Band Stand and zig zag bridge

To me, the best part about finding old photos is discovering the stories behind them. And armed with the entire album of which this photo was part thereof, I sat my parents down and asked them about the day this photo was taken.

Mum & Dad at MacRitchie Reservoir

Mum & Dad at MacRitchie Reservoir (1971)

So the story goes – Dad took this photo using my grandfather’s camera and tripod. They were out for a day in the park with a pair of young twins that my mum’s family helps to care for. They were still dating at that time, probably in their early 20s, if the year marked on the photograph – Aug 1971 – can be trusted.

The story of how my parents met just had to be asked.

Mum: “Your Ah-Mah (maternal grandmother) and Ah-Ma (paternal grandmother) were classmates in school. At that time, Papa’s family ran a bookshop. I just finished my GCE O-Levels and went to help out at their bookshop. That’s where we met lor.”

And so that was how my pretty sweet mum charmed my cheeky playful dad and began their 7-year courtship. According to my other sources, Mum and Dad would spend hours talking on the phone well through the night and were inseparable.

Mum and Dad at Dad’s Paya Lebar house (1971)

Two years after that photograph in MacRitchie was taken, i.e. 1973, my parents said “I DO” in the presence of family and the Justice of Peace at the Registrar of Marriages.

Mum and Dad's ROM (1973)

Mum and Dad’s ROM (1973)

In Singapore, even though you may be legally bound as husband and wife, you aren’t really “married” till you’ve been through the customary rites and wedding banquet etc etc. That much hasn’t changed through the years at all!

Mum and Dad (1974)

The young lovers at mum’s Alexandra Rd home (1974)

The legal union allowed my parents to apply for a flat in the new town Ang Mo Kio, where I spent the first decade of my life. (The Remember Singapore blog has a brilliant blog entry on the development of Ang Mo Kio.)

Mum and Dad were finally officially and customarily (?) husband and wife after the tea presentation ceremony with both sides of the family, and a traditional local Chinese wedding banquet with all kin and kith, to celebrate the blessed union. This was in 1976, a good 3 years after their ROM. Gosh, what a marathon love affair! Which probably means they were well prepared for what’s to come I guess! Heehee… 2014 is year 38 and counting!

Mr and Mrs Yeh Toh Yen (1976)

Mr and Mrs Yeh Toh Yen (1976)

mum & dad wedding2

Mum and her sister, who was also her Maid-of-honour

Mum and her sister, who was also her Maid-of-honour

As I was flipping through their wedding album, my parents recounted their wedding day. Dad remembered how they had their wedding photos taken at a professional studio but they could only pick a few to save on cost. The rest were all taken back at home. They were lucky to own their own camera equipment.

Dad said, “Your mum made her own wedding gown you know! She had a certificate for dressmaking,” which resulted in my mum responding with a little shoulder swagger and a smile tinged with pride.

“And then she fell into a drain.” Dad continued without missing a beat. Uncontrolled giggles ensued – dad, mum and aunt (mum’s sister). Me.. still not quite getting it.

Mum: “They were all so worried because I was bleeding (giggle giggle), I cut myself… all because I forgot I was wearing a tight petticoat underneath.”

Dad: “Well, it wouldn’t have happened if you took the long way round the drain like the rest of us.”

Mum: “Tsk.”

Me: …

I love Family time, sharing all our proud and  embarrassing moments… 🙂

Anyway, I thought this particular memory was perfect for sharing on this Valentine’s Day, which is coincidentally also the last day of the 15 days of Chinese New Year celebrations (元宵), traditionally a day to celebrate family togetherness. It was enlightening to learn how my parents met, their union, and the humble beginnings of our little family unit.

My first Chinese New Year!

Three generations during Chinese New Year in AMK (1980)

And just one last thing. A little trivia on the image below –


See that hand holding the photograph? That is the hand of my husband-to-be. (I always thought he had nicer looking hands.)

I still remember the day we took this picture. And now that I look at it again, it hits me… there we were, a couple, taking a picture of another couple, mirror images of each other (almost), separated by film and time.

Happy Valentine’s Day baby. This post is for you. ;-*


yuehann’s notes: Today’s post is the third in a series of posts first born in reaction to Looking into the Past. Read the very first blog post here & also Part 1Part 2 of the series. And also a related article I wrote for online e-zine Draft (pg 68).

Posing at the Lim Bo Seng Memorial (Part 2 of 7)

28 Jan

Families in the 1950s would spend time at public parks, having picnics and simply enjoying nature. Nowadays, we hang out indoors at air conditioned malls.

Lim Bo Seng Memorial at Esplanade Park

Lim Bo Seng Memorial at Esplanade Park

I took this shot around the same time as the previous one taken at the Tan Kim Seng Fountain, which mirrors the original photograph in the sense that it was also an outing on the same day. It was a day out with family and friends – Singaporean Chinese writer/playwright Liu Renxin (刘仁心) and his three children.

Playwright Liu Renxin was also a teacher along with my grandfather Yeh Chi Wei (叶之威) over at Chung Cheng High School. The school was a breeding ground for artistic talent. And many “big names” in the local arts scene have roots in the school. I don’t remember what Mr Liu looked like but I remembered that Mr Liu had autographed a book of his works for me.. and gifted it to me years ago when I was still studying Theatre Studies in Victoria Junior College. Good memories there too!

Tan Kim Seng Fountain

Tan Kim Seng Fountain

In the shot above, my grandmother (third from left) looked so very young. And you know what? She was! At the time the photo was taken, she was only in her late 20s and already a mother of 6, including the youngest (at that time) – my dad (the cheeky one third from right). That’s way younger than me, i.e. mid 30s and mother of none.

Lim Bo Seng Memorial Up Close

Lim Bo Seng Memorial Up Close

I like this “stylo” pose. My dad having a ball of a time “riding” the stone lion, with one uncle looking suave (at the left) and the other uncle, meek (centre). The present day Esplanade Park doesn’t look very much different, which is a good thing. A constant in the constantly evolving Singapore landscape.

I like the colonial district, for it’s grand ol’ dame feel, not so much the “white men supremacy” connotations. I don’t reject our colonial history, for it makes us who we are as a people, and in a way, part of our Singaporean identity.

Anyway, I can only imagine how times were back then in the 1950s… living in colonial times. A bygone era I don’t feel anything for. A time where cars and cameras were few. There was no ERP surcharges or MRT train breakdowns to complain about. No mobile phones, no internet, no social media. People were poor but rich with memories.

Old pictures like this makes me feel somewhat connected to that distant history. And it seems a little more real.

Collage of pictures from family day out

Collage of pictures from family day out

I feel lucky and privileged to be able to share in these memories. Lucky that my grandfather was a camera buff and made all these images to be passed down to my generation. Privileged that my dad kept these memories for me to inherit and now to share.

Strangely though, neither my grandfather nor Mr Liu were in the pictures taken that day. Hmm… maybe there’s something about being an artist and preferring to create rather than be subjects in a creative (i.e. photography) process.

Coming up next: A Date at MacRitchie Reservoir… perfect for a V-day read!

Remember to leave me a comment!

♥  ♥  ♥

yuehann’s notes: Today’s post is the second of a series of posts on a project which was first born in reaction to Looking into the Past. Read the very first blog post here. And also a related article I wrote for online e-zine Draft (pg 68).

Present(ing) the Past again (Part 1 of 7)

30 Dec

Singapore has gone through many physical changes over the last few decades, with some iconic landscapes of a generation already lost, e.g. the Stamford Road National Library building, but many still remain.

In a bid to recapture some lost memories, I flipped through family albums to find old photographs I could use to express my nostalgia. The exercise reconnected me with my personal memories and also those of my family. Returning physically to the same location of the original photographed image allowed me to reconnect with that memory. Standing on the ground where that photograph was taken made me feel like I was there again, even if only in my mind.

It was truly looking into my past.

Part 1: Day out at the Esplanade Park

This picture was taken in the 1950s, at the Tan Kim Seng memorial located within the Esplanade Park.

Tan Kim Seng fountain at Esplanade Park

Tan Kim Seng fountain at Esplanade Park

When I was doing this shoot, it was drizzling intermittently which was a huge bother. I had to seek shelter in between attempts to find a proper angle to make the photograph align to the sculpture. All the while, I was thinking where my grandfather (who was most likely the photographer) would have stood to take this shot of his family.

syncing TKS

The original picture was taken when my grandparents brought their children, i.e. my father and his siblings out to the Esplanade. Back then it was right next to the water where the Singapore River meets the sea. I actually had other pictures of the area in those times. I could see the Fullerton Hotel, only that it was still the General Post Office. The “iconic” Merlion wasn’t born yet and of course, the “durian” Esplanade Theatres by the Bay was perhaps only an idea in the back of someone’s head. 

It made me stop and think just how much our little nation has grown.

The fountain still works in present day. City Hall in the background is now currently under renovation to be reborn as The National Art Gallery of Singapore – a development I eagerly await.

I wonder…while Grandfather stood to compose this picture, with the colonial grandeur of City Hall as backdrop, would he have ever fathomed that the building would one day be the home of visual art in Singapore? And even more unfathomable, that his works would find their way onto its white washed walls too?

Interesting thought no? 🙂

Continue reading

Still.Life.August: Plateau-y Phoo-ey!

30 Aug

August was a busy busy month! In between National Day, Presidential Elections, a short holiday to Krabi and general mopping about having to start working again, I struggled to remain committed to my weekly Sunday sessions.

My dad’s progress in oil painting has been on the surge lately. So proud of my dad! 🙂

In contrast, I have seemed to hit a plateau. Though I take full responsibility of not practicising outside of Sundays, it is nonetheless somewhat discouraging.

Oh well… it is supposed to be a leisurely pursuit and not a competition so, it’s all good. 😉

So… I didn’t have any epiphanies this month. *shrug* Just a lot of lessons learnt.

Still.Life in Real Life

It was quite a range of materials that we had to work with this month!

I had to miss one Sunday because of travels but I am hoping *cross fingers* that I will one day paint a landscape from one of the photographs I took.

Which one to paint… hmmmmm…..

They all look good right?

Ok… at least in comparison to the paintings  I did this month!

*drum roll*

Presenting… Still.Life.August!!

One of these did not have the benefit of Teacher’s magic hands. I would think it is immediately obvious which one. No prizes for guessing which one though. 😉

Sometimes the works I do are so thoroughly “fixed” by Teacher and other Association seniors that I feel like it is no longer from my own hand.

Yet, when it is ENTIRELY from my own hand… it would look … well… bad, really.


To be helped or not to be helped… how do I learn?

Click here for web album to see the work in progress photos.

August 7: Wine bottles, peach & grapes

From Still.Life.August

This painting had a LOT of help from Teacher. If you take a closer look at the work in progress pictures, you would notice that the bottles have shifted quite a few times. The importance of composition! And how it escapes me…

But the grapes were more or less untouched. 🙂

I am glad to say that my study of grapes for an earlier project has paid off. Can’t say the same for my peaches!

Oh oh oh… did you even notice how extra fruits have magically appeared? Twas to fix my faulty composition. Bleh~

August 21: Sea-shell Montage

From Still.Life.August

The shell was my idea! And my shell. 🙂

I decided to paint with a tiny canvas this time round and focus just on my lovely shell. Heehee…

My first time painting with shells and it was education as always.

The highlight of the session was when I had two “Masters” come work their magic on my humble little piece – my wonderful teacher (洪老师) and the senior Chairman of the Association’s Art “club”.


Chairman shared with me about colour mixing for painting shells – how it should be a mix of grey pink/brown/white instead of the brownish hues I initially used (see here). And he pointed out how my painting looks flat because there was not enough use of white and highlights. You just need to toggle the web album to see how much difference a different colour tone makes to the depiction of a shell.

En-lightening indeed!

He then passed me the brush and asked me to continue.

I sat staring blankly, absolutely stumped on what else I could do.

Fortunately,  Teacher came by. Seeing how comatose I was, he took over and worked his magic. With a wave of his brush here and there, he finished with a flourish and said that all that was left for me to …

… sign my big name.

“HOW CAN?” I said, exasperated, “I did next to nothing to create this work!”


August 28: Claypot Cabbage

From Still.Life.August

This last painting needs a whole lot of work!

The cabbage is a disaster! (Even with help from a senior who tried her best to teach me)

The tomatoes look garish!

The chilli is floating!

And the claypot – which is probably the most decent looking of the lot – is just F.L.A.T. (Fabulously Lacking Artistic Technnique)!

So much to fix… *shake head*

No wonder nobody was sitting at my spot to paint. I must have picked the “Experts only” spot. :S

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