When I ask Australians Kerry and Lianne, New Zealanders Bronwyn and Christine and Sandra from Holland how they forged their friendship in Singapore, they all mime drinking. I know immediately that my half hour with this fun-loving group won’t be boring.
Ostensibly, it’s Kerry’s turn to pick the next spot for their weekly get-together, but it’s a majority decision that the mojitos at Luke Mangan’s Salt at Raffles City are the best in town. When it comes to the location for their weekly group photography outing, however, it’s not such a foregone conclusion.
“We’ve all got these macro-lenses that do close-up pictures,” says Lianne, “so rather than heading out somewhere, we might all spend an afternoon where we just stay in, squirt water on a flower and wait for a dewdrop!”
Between bouts of raucous laughter, they admit that they have a brainstorming session a few days before a shoot, to decide where to go and which lenses to use.
But their photography group is not just a creative ruse for mojito-quaffing. The group has travelled the region together with their cameras – including to Cambodia, Myanmar and Bali. Bhutan is next on the list for Sandra, Christine and Lianne.
How did you all meet?
Lianne: On the second day of a photography course we’d all enrolled in, one of the girls suggested going out for a drink afterwards. Then, once the course ended, we all said, ‘Well what are we going to do now?’ So we agreed to meet the following week to take photos. We usually pick an area in Singapore and go and photograph it, so we’ve seen a lot of the island that we probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise. We walk around temples, we head out to Joo Chiat or East Coast Park; if there’s a festival going on, we’ll go to that – we recently went to Chinatown and, of course, we go to the annual Thaipusam parade in Little India. We have now taken several photography courses together, either in a studio or online. They’re lots of fun. One of our first challenges on a course with Karen from Baobab Photo was to photograph a still life, using shoes as the subject. We were doing everything to get the most interesting shot – even hanging shoes from our windows!
EL: What’s been your hardest challenge so far?
Christine: We did an online course where we you had to choose a word from a list – danger, empathy, loss, indifference – and depict that word with your photo, but we weren’t allowed to use people.
Lianne: If you’re doing a course and the rest of the group aren’t doing it and you’ve got an assignment, guess what everyone will be doing that weekend! I think the more we do this the more we realise how little we know. There’s always something to learn. We’re quite critical of our own and each other’s work – but in a positive way.
This must be quite an expensive hobby too.
Lianne: It can be expensive, but you can do it at different levels. You can rent different lenses here quite easily. But the more you get into it, the more you really want to have your own – any excuse! When it comes to buying software, most of us have Lightroom, but we’d prefer to get good photos just with our cameras. We also share our books and magazines – between us we could set up a library.
Sandra: Singapore is a city with a lot of opportunity to do courses. And you can photograph all kinds of different things here – there’s the city itself, and there’s so much nature.
Lianne: It’s great for travelling as well. We’re very lucky to be here.
What do you think made you gravitate towards one another?
Lianne: We’re nomads.
Christine: We’re lonely, desperate old ladies!
Lianne: We’re lonely and desperate and nobody else would have us! (More laughter ensues.)
Christine: Lianne and I hadn’t been in the country that long, but when you find people who have similar personalities and an interest in common…
Christine: We don’t always go for a drink after our session. We often go off to Funan to pick up some goodies!
Where are your favourite places to photograph in Singapore?
Bronwyn: The Bishan Monastery (Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery). It’s so colourful and the people are so friendly. Chinatown is also a big favourite of mine.
Kerry: I like angles, lines and reflections, so anywhere, really. Marina Bay is good. I also enjoy street photography – Chinatown and Little India are great locations to watch daily events unfold.
Lianne: I like the wet markets for the activity; each one has its own culture. The light is challenging, though. Equally, I like the coastline and the surrounding parks, which provide a good contrast to the busy city.
Christine: The monastery in Bishan. It’s vast and vibrant, but serene at the same time. Tekka Market is good too, because the stallholders don’t mind you getting up close with your camera to photograph them in action. In China, they don’t like it – it’s a cultural thing. You have to be respectful.
Sandra: For me it’s also Chinatown. And we did a shoot recently in the Joo Chiat area, where I live. It’s nice to go on a shoot with friends and see what they notice about your neighbourhood. I really enjoyed that too.
Here’s a chance to show off your own photography chops. Email Expat Living a photo that encapsulates the theme of “Best Friends”, and the best entry will win a Beginners’ Photography Course with Baobab Photo valued at $540.Entries must be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org by 30 June 2014. Photo details: between 1MB and 5MB; please provide a photo caption in the body of the email. Subject line: “Best Friends photo”