On resonance

The other day I found Red Bull’s Singapore Seven series – a set of interviews with local movers and shakers about how they got to where they are, and what it is that keeps them going.

I went through all 7 of them, back to back. Rapt for once: a non-standard response to internet video, which is usually accompanied by all the things one can do in other browser tabs.

Three years ago I came back here to say goodbye to my father, and stayed eight months before hitting the road again. It had been fifteen years since I’d been back for any decent amount of time, and was the point I began coming to terms with what it meant to be Singaporean. When I left Singapore for Australia in 1999, the mission was to try and forget the place existed. This was of course, impossible to do, but heck, I was 18. I gave it every bit of vehement teenage angst I had. Having been removed this long, everything about it surprised me, even things that shouldn’t have, like my family, for instance (the feeling was mutual: we’re an odd bunch, we agree).

Underpass, East Coast Park, Singapore
Underpass, East Coast Park, Singapore

So it’s been lovely coming across local artists taking on the social landscape, and giving the machine perfection of the mother country a nerve-wracking humanity. In the case of the Singapore Seven, it is an uncommon pleasure to find such well made profiles in language and expression that is still instinctual. I’ve mentioned once or twice that I don’t feel as much of a stranger anywhere as I do in the land of my birth, so it’s an even rarer thing to find that I relate – at all – to what these seven are saying.

While I still have no idea what to do with myself in the motherland, it is heartening to know that there might be a tiny space for weirdos like me; that I might someday learn to belong. As strange as it feels to admit after a lifetime of refusal: I ache to call Singapore my home.

Sentosa island, Singapore
Sentosa island, Singapore


  1. Fran Oldham says:

    As an Englishman who has lived outside England most of his life I no longer feel at home in the UK. Although I’ve lived in the US for nearly 60 years I certainly don’t feel at home here…especially in an election year! So I can sympathise and empathise with you in not feeling that anywhere is really “home”.
    Are you going to get an x-T2 when they become available?

    1. Charlene says:

      Especially this election huh? :) My notion of home changes over time, but I think, among other things, that I’m tired as well…. but before I say too much, there’s probably going to be a blog post on that coming.

      X-T2: I don’t know, but I hope so! There are heaps of improvements in the video space, I’m hearing, so I’m itching to get my hands on it for that alone.

  2. Max says:

    Hi, Charlene! Beautiful images, just found your art and enjoying it so much.. I am a concert photographer and recently switched from Nikon to Fuji, never looking back. At last I have this itching feeling again to take camera with me every time I leave home :) Do you edit colors in your images somehow or is this just in-camera Fuji film emulation?
    Greetings from Russia :)

    1. Charlene says:

      Hey Max, I’ve shot a lot of concerts with various Fujis since I switched (from Nikon also) 4 years ago. They’re good for that, especially the later bodies with their outstanding see-in-the-dark EVF.

      I shoot RAW only, so everything you see has gone through some rudimentary post processing in Lightroom.

  3. Max says:

    Yeah, that was the first thing that amazed me. I shot with Nikon D4, and though it being an amazing beast of a camera (in every meaning of this word), EVF in my new X-T2 just blew me away. It literally sees in the dark better than I do, not speaking of OVFs in any DSLR. I was hesitating for a long time because with X-T1 and Pro1 ISO and AF speed was just not there yet for me, but since XT2 came out I just went and sold all my Nikon gear. As a lot of action photographers I developed a lot of problems with my spine, so using a camera with four lenses which weighs exactly like D4 with 24-70 alone is nothing short of a bliss :)

    1. Charlene says:

      I came to the X-series from the school of back problems and heavy cameras too so I relate to that! Glad you’re enjoying your X-T2. I’m looking forward to trying one out myself.

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