Domestic Blindness…

…is a bitch.

Half the time i think my job as/the whole point of being a photographer is to find life in the blindingly ordinary, the stuff I don’t think about, ever.

Because if I can’t see a different possibility, then I can’t ask another to do the same. You gotta do the work, you know?

This place above? I walk through that concrete portal everyday. To eat at the hawker center, to catch the bus or train, to walk out into the world, and to come back home through it. 80% of us in this country walk through spaces like that everyday.

The void decks of our public housing apartment blocks contain waypoints of our daily lives. And they too can bring out blockbuster broodiness when the city lights come out to battle the gloaming.

Rochor Canal, Singapore

In trying to unsee the things I take for granted, it’s a always the exercise of removing context.

I’ve seen apartment blocks like this in Serbia, Italy, Denmark. I’ve admired their foursquare, brutalist solidity, stepped back to consider them in context of the greater urban landscape. Appreciated them for what they represent, dug around to find their history.

Then I get back to Singapore, where they are a veritable forest of geometric opportunity covering great swathes of the country, and I think profound thoughts like “wah lau, why we have to wait so long for the traffic light? Sun very hot leh.”

Flats in Bedok, from the train


  1. William says:

    “…their foursquare, brutalist solidity…” Have you ever hauled around a GFX?

    1. Charlene says:

      You bet.

      1. William says:

        Yes, just found your post. Wish you’d do more with it. Thanks.

      2. Charlene says:

        I only had it for a week, and that’s all the time i need with it. Gorgeous files but it’s too big. Not so much fun.

      3. William says:

        Understood. Guess I wondered because I like your “still-scapes” so much, their thoughtfulness, their moodiness and sense of “mulling things over”. I don’t know, though, maybe they’re just “grabs” – and that is not meant disparagingly at all. They’re very nice images

      4. Charlene says:

        They were all grabs, ha. Are you thinking of getting one?

      5. William says:

        A GFX? Oh yes. Maybe I’m just morbid, but some of your images, your “Nightwalking” series from 2010, for example, I find very affecting. But simply “all grabs, ha”? Well, that’s sobering. Here, I am, thinking of you slipping furtively down darkened alleys in a black shawl, when in fact, you were, what, out for a jog? Picking up some take-out? Well, whatever works. Good stuff. Thanks.

      6. Charlene says:

        Ha! No no, the GFX images were all grabs, i meant. Nightwalking images were mostly made on the long walk home from work, back when I had an office job.

  2. Phil Weston says:

    Nicely stated Charlene, finding Life in the ordinary is a constant struggle for all photographers.

    1. Charlene says:

      It sure is. And one of its great joys.

  3. phimagery says:

    I appreciate all these comments !!!

  4. Mike says:

    Hi Charlene,
    from my experience, it’s usually the light that makes the ordinary extraordinary; that and sometimes the time of year. Sometimes magic happens: we have to be paying attention (that’s the hard part).


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