Front-line accounts of the images that make the news

Trainees (above) covering themselves with sand during an exercise in the five-month Combat Diver Course. It was an equally gritty task for ST photojournalist Alphonsus Chern (left), seen here hauling himself up a rope at the Sembawang Camp jetty.
Trainees (above) covering themselves with sand during an exercise in the five-month Combat Diver Course. ST PHOTOS: ALPHONSUS CHERN, CAROLINE CHIA
Trainees (above) covering themselves with sand during an exercise in the five-month Combat Diver Course. It was an equally gritty task for ST photojournalist Alphonsus Chern (left), seen here hauling himself up a rope at the Sembawang Camp jetty.
It was an equally gritty task for ST photojournalist Alphonsus Chern (above), seen here hauling himself up a rope at the Sembawang Camp jetty.

For five gruelling months in 2014, Straits Times photojournalists Alphonsus Chern and Caroline Chia ran, swam and dived alongside the Republic of Singapore Navy's elite Naval Diving Unit. They captured unique shots of their training, which culminated in five days of the combat divers' Team Building Week - better known as Hell Week.

"It was rewarding because no one has ever covered the combat course so closely and in such detail," said Mr Chern, 36, who witnessed the emotional and physical toll that the extreme course exerted on the trainees.

He also watched like a proud parent when 69 of them received their combat diver badges for the first time.

As part of the World Press Photo 2015 exhibition, presented by The Straits Times (ST) for the second year running, Mr Chern will share his experiences of capturing Singapore's military elite in action at a series of talks next Sunday.

He will be joined by ST photojournalists Desmond Lim, Kevin Lim and Neo Xiaobin at the National Museum of Singapore event. Mr Chern and Mr Desmond Lim's talks, initially scheduled for today, have been moved to next Sunday.

CLOSE QUARTERS

It was rewarding because no one has ever covered the combat course so closely and in such detail.

STRAITS TIMES PHOTOJOURNALIST ALPHONSUS CHERN, who ran, swam and dived with Straits Times photojournalist Caroline Chia alongside the Republic of Singapore Navy's elite Naval Diving Unit.

  • What's on

  • TILL FEB 21

    • National Museum of Singapore, The Concourse (Level 1) and The Canyon (Basement 1)

    • Open daily, 10am to 7pm

    • Free admission

    Guided tours

    • Every Saturday and Sunday, 11am and 2pm (Limited to 20 people for each session, registration on site)

    Talks

    Admission is free, but pre-registration is required

    Sunday, Feb 14

    11am

    • Behind The Scenes Of Disaster Reportage by Kevin Lim

    • Evolution Of Newspaper Photographers by Neo Xiaobin

    1pm

    • Shooting Singapore: Telling Stories About Our Community by Desmond Lim

    • Sea, Air And Land: Photographing The SAF's Elite by Alphonsus Chern

    Visitors also stand a chance to win a one-night stay for two at The South Beach, the event's official hotel. Simply take a picture of the image that impressed you the most at the exhibition and tell us why (in less than 50 words). Send it to stwpp@sph.com.sg by Feb 21, 6pm.

    For details and to register for talks, go to www.straitstimes.com/tags/st-world-press-photo

The exhibition, sponsored by Canon and supported by the museum, features 145 winning images from the World Press Photo 2015 contest, as well as 13 of ST's best photographs from last year.

They include Mr Desmond Lim's cinematic portrait of two residents at the ageing Dakota Crescent estate, which will be redeveloped later this year. The nostalgic image shows Madam Tian Ying Lee, 62, and her husband Wong Ah Fook, 53, with their eyes closed and microphones locked in their hands during a karaoke session at home in the disappearing neighbourhood.

"People can be very complex and there are gems of stories hidden in many which needs a little teasing out," said Mr Lim, 34, who will speak about documenting local communities. "I see beauty in the seemingly mundane and it has become sort of a personal challenge to find something fresh in things that have been photographed to death."

The audience will also have the opportunity to hear from photojournalists Kevin Lim, who has covered disasters like the 2010 Sumatra earthquake and tsunami, and Neo Xiaobin. She will speak about how the role of newspaper photographers has evolved in the digital age.

"The emergence of online media platforms is a phenomenon that has affected newspaper photographers even more than when digital photography replaced analog cameras," said Ms Neo, 33. "The talk is relevant to people who are curious about what we do and what goes on behind the scenes."

Sponsors for the exhibition include The South Beach hotel, logistics company Famous Air & Sea Services, caterer Purple Sage, public relations firm Weber Shandwick and printing firm Photogenie.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 06, 2016, with the headline 'Front-line accounts of the images that make the news'. Print Edition | Subscribe