Yishun through lens of neighbourhood kids

Above: Some 40 photos taken by the children will be on display at the Hello Heartlands! exhibition. Left: The project involving 18 children was led by photographer Bernice Wong (seated, third from right), artist Kim Whye Kee (standing, far right) and
The project involving 18 children was led by photographer Bernice Wong (seated, third from right), artist Kim Whye Kee (standing, far right) and two others.PHOTO: FELINE LIM
Above: Some 40 photos taken by the children will be on display at the Hello Heartlands! exhibition. Left: The project involving 18 children was led by photographer Bernice Wong (seated, third from right), artist Kim Whye Kee (standing, far right) and
Some 40 photos taken by the children will be on display at the Hello Heartlands! exhibition.PHOTO: HELLO HEARTLANDS!

Exhibition features photos taken by children staying in rental flats in the area

After trying her hand at photography for the first time during the current school holidays, Spectra Secondary School student Amrun Nesa will see her work exhibited at her void deck today.

Nesa, 13, is one of 18 children staying in rental flats in Yishun Street 22 who took part in Hello Heartlands! - a project led by photographer Bernice Wong, 28, and her friends.

"The idea was to see this Yishun neighbourhood through their eyes," said Ms Wong.

Over three weekends, the children took photos around their neighbourhood, reviewed them, and even visited the Children's Biennale at the National Gallery Singapore to be inspired.

Prints of the group's 40 or so photos - taken by the children on disposable cameras - are on display at the void deck of Block 269A.

Ms Wong said: "We wanted them to have meaningful June holidays. Many of them spend their holidays in this neighbourhood. They don't get to go out, or do anything fun."

"Middle-class kids can go on vacations... But for these kids, a lot of them don't have such holidays."

Besides giving them a sense of ownership through the exhibition, Ms Wong said she hopes it can boost their self-confidence.

Asked about her proudest work on display, Nesa said: "My favourite photo is the one that I took of Bernice's car... That's the car that I use to travel around Singapore."

Ms Wong has known Nesa and her family for more than three years, documenting their lives on camera for a project on urban poverty.

While the latest project started with 12 children, whom Ms Wong and Nesa invited by walking around the blocks, more joined in as word got around. Like Secondary 1 student Mohamed Shamir, 13, who was playing at a void deck when they told him about it.

While he studies in Singapore, his family has moved to Johor Baru, where he now lives.

Of his experience with the project, he said: "I learnt about teamwork, and how to understand one another and respect others' opinions. "

Primary 5 pupil Nur Atiqah Najwa, 11, said her father encouraged her to join. She said: "I never used to go downstairs."

Artist Kim Whye Kee, 37, the project co-organiser, hopes this will be the start of a journey for the children to learn more about themselves, their environment and, eventually, the world beyond.

"I came from here - rental areas," he said. "Due to our family situations, we did not get to see, visit or explore many things."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2017, with the headline 'Yishun through lens of neighbourhood kids'. Print Edition | Subscribe