Reflecting on 2016: Pictures that define the year for ST photographers
December may just be a routine month in the calendar for some, but for others, the end of the year is a time for reflection, contemplation and New Year resolutions. We celebrate milestones, remember relationships lost and found, think about mistakes made or simply spend time soaking in the festive season with loved ones. As we write the last lines of a 366-page book this leap year, we also look forward to filling the first blank page of a new one. The Straits Times Picture Desk (email@example.com) photographers define their year with this visual retrospective and what their chosen photo means to them. The weekly picture essay, which now appears on Thursdays, will move to Mondays in the Home section, starting next week.
A traffic light turning red is reflected in droplets of water. This year has not been smooth for me. Seven months ago, an accident on my way to an assignment in Sentosa changed my life . Travelling along Keppel Viaduct, I was thrown from my seat when the driver had to jam on the brakes to avoid a multiple-vehicle collision after a vehicle broke down and stopped in the leftmost lane. I was not wearing a seat belt. The impact of the accident affected my nerves, resulting in hypersensitivity and shooting pains in my hands. I was not able to do the simplest things - like putting my clothes on and washing my hair - without pain. I could not even pick up my camera. It took months to heal and I learnt not to take road safety for granted. The first thing I do now when I enter a vehicle is buckle my seat belt.
LIFE'S LITTLE MIRACLES
A screen shot from my computer with photos of my son. The one word that sums up my 2016: motherhood. This year has been very challenging. Some days - and nights - have been so trying that even I am surprised I made it this far. From sleepless nights comforting an ill baby to staying awake at work meetings, I have grown and learnt from these new experiences. Watching my son grow to be a healthy, cheerful toddler has been the highlight of my year. I've realised that every baby is different and that every parent's journey is unique. Being a mother has made me re-evaluate what is important to me. These days, I appreciate very ordinary things that I used to take for granted, like an uninterrupted meal, a chat with a friend or a catnap. And as the new year approaches, I look forward to carving out a bit more time for myself - and perhaps a long overdue family holiday.
The year has been a reminder to me that good health is a blessing. Three weeks ago, my cousin Bernadette Sim, 49, underwent a cranioplasty - a procedure that closes the hole in her skull with an artificial piece - to rebuild part of her skull and to restore both its contour and a chance to "feel whole again" (left, top). She had a craniotomy during brain surgery in 2011 due to bleeding in the brain. A piece of her skull was sawn off (bottom). During this time, Bernadette suffered several personal setbacks, including a divorce, but she remains hopeful about life. Empowered by her religion, Bernadette, a Catholic, has chosen to stay positive. She says: "I feel energised and eager to achieve things. I feel like a new person. My faith told me this was an important part of my healing and the procedure would be successful. I am very positive about the next few years of my life. My religion has helped me to come this far and, having lived through this, I believe I have a lot more to do and offer as part of God's plan. I'm eager to go back to work and help the disabled and the older workers as I know what they face, having lived it."
TIME TO LEAN BACK AND THINK
A Chinese opera artist yawns as he waits backstage during a performance at the Tou Mu Kong Temple during the Nine Emperor Gods Festival in September this year.
2016 came and went in what seemed too much like a jiffy. It has been a colourful, adventurous year, both personally and career-wise, as I picked up a bunch of new hobbies and travelled to new places. Reclining on my mental deckchair as the year winds down, I look forward to another vibrant year. At the same time, it seems apt to look back on my 20s as I fast approach the big three-zero.
A YEAR OF TAKING FLIGHT
A fishing enthusiast casting his line as an aeroplane takes off in the clouds in the distance in mid-December. This year has been one of flights - including one to look back on and one to look forward to. One of the definite highlights of my career as a photojournalist was the coverage of the Rio Olympics in Brazil and being the nearest Singaporean - literally by the poolside - to Olympic champion Joseph Schooling as he won gold in the men's 100m butterfly, beating the likes of Michael Phelps and Chad le Clos. As the year reaches its end, it is also time for me to take a short break from work and look forward to my annual visit to my maternal family in Taiwan.
A REMINDER TO STAY HOPEFUL
This picture (below)- taken at dusk while holidaying in Bintan with my family and parents during Chinese New Year in February - reminds me to always think positive and stay hopeful in times of uncertainty. Rather than paying too much attention to the past year, which has been nothing short of unpredictable, I am looking forward to the new year and I believe that it will bring many new opportunities and prospects. I am also reminded to be thankful and treasure what I have - especially my loved ones.
Kua Chee Siong
THE URGENCY OF CHANGE
Bleached coral at Big Sister's Island, in the Southern Islands, in June.
Climate change is an issue that matters to me. Coral bleaching is an unfortunate consequence of warming sea temperatures and the bleaching this year has been the longest in Singapore so far.
While looking ahead to the future, we should also have a heart for the environment.
A FRESH START THIS YEAR
This year is special because I graduated from university and started working as a freelance photojournalist. This new phase in life is exciting - even more so because my job brings me into contact with people from all walks of life. As a rookie in the workforce, I sometimes wonder about my place in the bigger environment - how far I can go and what difference I can make. But I constantly remind myself that we are all works in progress and success takes time.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2016, with the headline 'Reflecting on 2016'. Print Edition | Subscribe
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