Photographer gives old-school kiddy rides a new lease of life in still-life series

Mr Lee Kim Leng in his shop in Serangoon Garden with two of the most popular rides, the “Big Head Duck” and “Vespa”. The family business used to produce and supply its own kiddy rides.
Mr Lee Kim Leng in his shop in Serangoon Garden with two of the most popular rides, the “Big Head Duck” and “Vespa”. The family business used to produce and supply its own kiddy rides. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
Some of the old-school kiddy rides shots.
Some of the old-school kiddy rides shots. PHOTO: NICKY LOH
Some of the old-school kiddy rides shots.
Some of the old-school kiddy rides shots. PHOTO: NICKY LOH
Some of the old-school kiddy rides shots.
Some of the old-school kiddy rides shots. PHOTO: NICKY LOH
Some of the old-school kiddy rides shots.
Some of the old-school kiddy rides shots. PHOTO: NICKY LOH
Some of the old-school kiddy rides shots.
Some of the old-school kiddy rides shots. PHOTO: NICKY LOH
Some of the old-school kiddy rides shots.
Some of the old-school kiddy rides shots. PHOTO: NICKY LOH

SINGAPORE - Kiddy rides, which jiggled and entertained young children for less than a dollar, are thin on the ground these days.

The brightly coloured machines were once a common sight outside neighbourhood shops and in shopping centres across Singapore, but have lost favour with the public since the 1990s.

And in a dim shop in Serangoon Gardens, Singaporean commercial photographer Nicky Loh has recreated the rides' glory days with the unusual premise of shooting the kitschy artefacts as though they were luxury items.

Mr Loh, 34, was working on another photography project featuring old shops across Singapore when he stumbled upon Woo Hock Trading.

The company was set up by Mr Lee Kim Leng in 1980 to produce and supply kiddy rides. Mr Lee paints the rides himself and also repairs their motors.

"My earliest recollection of kiddy rides were with my mum and grandma at Jelita. When they used to buy groceries, I would just sit on the rides," Mr Loh, who grew up in Pandan Valley,  told The Straits Times. The duck-shaped ride was his favourite, he added.

"It's amazing how a 20 simple cent ride unleashed my imagination and took me away for that brief amount of time - be it flying on an elephant or steering a boat, they were surely memories of pure joy that I will never forget," Mr Loh wrote on his Facebook page.

Mr Loh was so taken with the business - which Mr Lee, now 78, runs with his 47-year-old daughter Catherine - that he offered to do a studio-style photoshoot for them.

"We set up the studio in their workshop," Mr Loh told The Straits Times. It was a professional affair, with lights and assistants.

"I wanted to do a series for Mr Lee, to show who brought laughter to us when we were kids, and to give him a chance for a revival of his art."

Since Mr Loh posted the photographs from his shoot over the weekend (Aug 27), he has received "eight to 10 enquiries" on how to buy kiddy ride machines, which he conveyed to the Lees.