On Painting

Charlene journal

Singapore I haven’t been shooting much since I’ve been back in the motherland, so this post has nothing to do with photography, travel, or anything I usually blog about. It’s about about painting. Walls and such. I’ve been domestically preoccupied for a few months. Late 2018, before I headed to Copenhagen, there were weeks of prep for the big government upgrading program to our flats that gave thousands of us brand new bathrooms – among other things – and Mum’s own concurrent renovations. Then it was a week of cleaning, and I painted my room before heading off to Denmark for a couple of months. In the couple of weeks I’ve been back from Copenhagen, I’ve been painting the rest of the house. Let me …

Domestic blindness

Charlene journal 12 Comments

…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 …


Charlene journal 2 Comments

Singapore. Despite my best efforts, the pictures that insist on being made here, the motherland, are those that slip between the cacophony of nation building.

One at a time

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Something is starting to twig. A word here, a sidelong look there. Cooked tar and smoking skin. It bites so badly that you are raw and limp, grateful. An introduction of colour. There. The Anthem of New Boots


Charlene journal 2 Comments

Singapore On the day I marked the fifth anniversary of this itinerant life, I went out for a long walk late at night and left my keys in the door. This being Singapore, and us living on a floor where no one save the neighbours goes to, nothing untoward happened. Only Mum coming home later and getting a scare – keys dangling, no sign of errant child (who is getting forgetful with age). * The past five years have been ephemeral, and my memories of them, while vibrant with colour and movement, also place-time-event indistinct. Not having anywhere to call “home” is a destabilizing, as much as it is delightful. Geographical and temporal markers completely awry. Physiological and psychological lags of time and space. Too …

A Meditation on Transit

Charlene journal 6 Comments

Singapore After seven weeks in New Zealand, Flemming and I returned to Singapore in early December, to the brand new Downtown Line on the MRT (metro) system. The best part? There’s a station right down the road from home. A five minute stroll from Mum’s front door, and I main-line it into the country’s urban heart, with a minimum of interruption and cross-over. Driverless trains sweep into swanky new underground stations anchoring a vast web of tunnels. We’ve come a long way from the 30 year old lines that run overground on elevated tracks, giving passengers a lofty view of the city rushing by. We’re now cushioned from the world above, plugged into our pocket worlds and chilled until we’re ready to be poured into …

On the bus to KL

Charlene Small Stories 8 Comments

When I was growing up in Singapore, trips to Malaysia happened several times a year. Both my folks, being originally Malaysian, have family there, and my Dad also went game fishing in Malaysian waters all the time. It remains, for me, a place of myth and magic. Every supernatural tale I’ve heard originated there. These days i head for the sprawling metropolis of Kuala Lumpur to visit my sister and her family. It’s a big city which is familiar enough in function and form, but I always think of Malaysia as that land outside the bus window, flying down the highway. Brooding jungles and vast tracts of plantation – in earlier days, alternating rubber, with the crop that dominated the landscape in later ones, palm …

On returning home

Charlene journal, vagabonding 2 Comments

Singapore Home is so often the hardest place to return to. As I celebrate 4 years on the road, I’ve noted feeling something suspiciously akin to gladness at being in Singapore. This is unusual for me, given the isolation of coming back to empty spaces of friends and family who have left, sets in too quickly, and by the time I’ve been here 2 weeks, I’m desperate to leave. I arrived at the start of December, this time around, and it’s been different. December and January have been exceptionally rich months with the important people in my life. I got to see both my sisters in short order of each other, which is incredible, given one lives in Malaysia and the other in the USA …