Tender shot of dying grandfather

Medical student Ching Ann Hui took as many photos of her grandfather as she could when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She included a shot of her father feeding her grandfather (above right) for the City Developments Limited Singapore Young Photogr
Medical student Ching Ann Hui took as many photos of her grandfather as she could when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She included a shot of her father feeding her grandfather (above right) for the City Developments Limited Singapore Young Photographer Award competition.ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI

Ching Ann Hui, who won the junior category of the Singapore Young Photographer Award, included a photo of her father feeding her grandpa

When Ms Ching Ann Hui's grand- father was diagnosed with the final stages of liver cancer in early 2014, trips to Johor, where he lived, became a fortnightly affair for her.

Her father would buy her grandfather's favourite fish soup, while she snapped photos of him as often as she could, with increasing urgency.

"It was as if a lifetime had suddenly been compressed," recalls the 19-year-old medical student. "I took photos every trip I could because any trip could possibly have been my last time seeing my grandfather alive. And I wanted something to remember him by. It's almost like catching moments before they fly away forever, even if they aren't the happiest."

Her grandfather died in May 2014, just months after his diagnosis, at the age of 83.

Ms Ching included a tender shot of her father feeding her grand- father a spoonful of fish soup in her submission for the City Developments Limited (CDL) Singapore Young Photographer Award competition, along with five other photos that included shots of people she encountered on the streets.

  • VIEW IT / 6TH CDL SINGAPORE YOUNG PHOTOGRAPHER AWARD EXHIBITION 2016

  • WHERE: The Concourse, Level 1, National Museum of Singapore, 93 Stamford Road

    WHEN: Till Sept 30, from 10am to 7pm daily

    ADMISSION: Free

She emerged the winner in the junior category, beating more than 720 participants for the honour.

Ms Ching, who first picked up the camera when she was nine years old, is interested in street and documentary photography.

The National University of Singapore undergraduate says: "Street photography can be seen as something voyeuristic, especially in Singapore where subjects are not exactly the most open. Most of the time, the subjects in my photograph ask me what and why exactly I am photographing. They don't see what I see. So for me to have won, it feels like a tremendous leap."

While Ms Ching walked away with the top prize for the junior category, for participants aged 13 to 18 at the time of submission, 26-year-old software engineer Jonathan Chiang Shun Jie came in tops in the youth category of the contest, which is open to those aged 19 to 25.

His cinematic, sun-drenched photo of pigeons taking flight at the soon-to-be-demolished Rochor Centre impressed the judges.

It was a shot a year in the making, says Mr Chiang. Last year, he used an online application that calculates the position of the sun to pin down a date to capture it shining between two blocks of flats.

On that day - April 10 - he headed to Rochor on the first train, then waited for about two hours for the right light and for residents to start feeding the birds so he could catch them in mid-flight.

"This is the last year I can take part in this contest, so winning it is a dream come true for me," he says. "In a way, it's a coming of age."

There are three other categories in the biennial photography competition: architecture, Themed Body Of Work and a new On The Move category, a nod to the growing trend of mobile photography.

National serviceman Koh Chaik Hong, 21, bagged the top prize in the architecture category for the third time in a row.

His take on the South Beach mixed-use development owned by CDL and IOI Properties Group Berhad, with the buildings' angles and curves caught against a cloudless sky, wowed the judges.

The Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts photography graduate says he had started to recce the area even before this year's competition was announced.

"I wanted to capture the form and bring out the beauty of the building. I went to the carpark just beside South Beach and walked up and down looking for the right height and angles," he says. "Most of the buildings had security guards, I sometimes got chased out by them while looking around."

Avian keeper Lyn Low Yu Neng, 24, won in the Themed Body Of Work category and freelance communication designer Clement Cher Jia Long, 24, is the winner of the On The Move category.

It was Mr Cher's first time taking part. He sent in "very unexpected and spontaneous" shots he had taken in Singapore and Bali. "It's what I love about photography - capturing a specific moment in time and eternalising it, capturing memories and emotions and making them last forever," he says.

"Mobile photography has been a huge part of my life ever since the camera function was built into a mobile phone."

The love affair started when he got his hands on a Sony Ericsson k800i Cybershot phone in secondary school.

The winners were picked by a 17-member judging panel from more than 1,600 submissions, four times the number sent in for the inaugural competition in 2006.

The panel comprises industry professionals and veteran photographers such as The Straits Times' deputy photo editor Wang Hui Fen, Lianhe Zaobao chief photographer Lee Tiah Khee and New York-based photographer John Clang.

The biennial contest by property and hotel group CDL aims to discover and recognise home- grown photographic talents between the ages of 13 and 25.

The winner of the youth category receives $5,000 and the winners of the junior and architecture category receive $3,000 each. The top prize for the Themed Body Of Work category is a Nikon D7200 kit and speedlight, while the On The Move winner gets an iPhone 6s.

At yesterday's awards ceremony at the National Museum of Singapore, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin, a shutterbug himself, said he was heartened to see past winners of the competition pursuing and excelling at their craft.

The 2010 winner of the youth category, Hong Huazheng, for instance, is now a commercial photographer who has bagged prizes at regional awards.

Mr Tan added: "I have no doubt that the competition will continue to cultivate budding photographers who will go on to make a name for themselves internationally."

The winners' photographs will be showcased in an exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore until Sept 30. It will also feature works by the panel of judges and pay tribute to the late Mr Kwek Leng Joo, CDL's deputy chairman, who initiated the award.

The avid photographer died last year at 62.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2016, with the headline 'Tender shot of dying grandfather'. Print Edition | Subscribe