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Capturing faces, places of the heartland

Winners of HDB's photo contest recount stories behind their pictures

A picture of an elderly void-deck cobbler sharing a light-hearted moment with his wife, who is sitting beside him, has won university student Kirthana Ganeson a prize in a photography competition.

Titled Sharing A Moment, the photograph, taken in Ang Mo Kio, bagged third place in the Instagram category of the Celebrating Life in the Heartlands Photography Competition 2016, organised by the Housing Board in conjunction with HDB's Community Week 2016.

"The couple I photographed had a hard life. The husband was working as a cobbler at a void deck, while his wife kept him company. Despite their challenges, they were genuinely happy. I felt I had to take a picture," said Ms Kirthana, 20.

Held from Jan 15 to March 31 this year, the competition was centred on the theme Friendly Faces, Lively Places, and asked for entries that highlighted the distinctive character of HDB towns.

This year's competition included a new Instagram category. Eligible entries with the most number of "likes" in the Instagram category won the People's Choice Award.

Engineer Chan Wai Meng, 45, who won the first prize in the Instagram category for his picture Tai Chi Masters, had been exploring Bras Basah when he caught the group on camera.

"The way they worked as a team needed to be remembered. It truly expressed Singapore's culture and lifestyle," he said.

The Open category's first prize went to IT executive Hang Loo Ming, 44, who captured the front facade of an HDB block in Mountbatten during Chinese New Year.

"I spotted a lion dance troupe and asked them where their next performance would be. Then, I went to the opposite block and took their picture from there," he said of his photo Stories Across Storeys.

Shortlisted entries in the Open category were judged by Ms Eileen Neo, an HDB representative who was also a judge for the Instagram category; Ms Wang Hui Fen, deputy picture editor at The Straits Times; and Mr Vincent Liew, honorary secretary of The Photographic Society of Singapore.

Referring to Mr Hang's photo of the lion dance troupe, Ms Wang said: "(It) had good composition, nice framing and striking colours. The moment the picture was captured opened a window on heartland living. It was a unanimous choice among the judges."

The other judges for the Instagram category were Mr Khairulazmas Salim, a Singapore-based photographer, and Mr Yafiq Yusman, curator of online group exploresingapore.sg.

IT operator Rushdi Jamari, 39, won a merit prize in the Instagram category for his photo Heartland Melodies. Walking through Rochor Centre, he came across an old man playing a flute at a void deck.

"He was so immersed in the music, I decided to capture the moment," he said.

Another Instagram merit prize went to tutor Wong Chek Poh, 55. His photo Old Is Gold showed kids at an old playground in Toa Payoh. He felt that the sand-based, dragon-shaped playground is disappearing in Singapore.

The contest received 2,204 entries this year, with 990 entries for the Open category, and 1,214 for the Instagram category.

Looking forward to the next contest, Ms Kirthana said: "The heartland is a versatile space that depicts our diversity. These towns are the microcosm of Singapore society."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 26, 2016, with the headline 'Capturing faces, places of the heartland'. Print Edition | Subscribe