Get a close-up look at images of Singapore's fight against Covid-19

An employee setting up an exhibit last night at Through The Lens, a photography exhibition by The Straits Times and World Press Photo (WPP). It will feature ST photojournalists' coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic here, as well as photos submitted for
An employee setting up an exhibit last night at Through The Lens, a photography exhibition by The Straits Times and World Press Photo (WPP). It will feature ST photojournalists' coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic here, as well as photos submitted for the 2020 WPP competition.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

When history books about the events of last year are written, images of empty streets and masked staff in crowded hospital wards will fill their pages.

Some of the best of these images will be on show from tomorrow to Feb 7 at Through The Lens, a photography exhibition by The Straits Times and World Press Photo (WPP).

The exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore will feature ST photojournalists' coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic in Singapore, as well as photos submitted for the 2020 WPP competition. The international contest, which began in 1955, is run by the World Press Photo Foundation, a non-profit organisation headquartered in Amsterdam.

ST picture editor Stephanie Yeow said of the newspaper's section of the exhibition: "Our photographers have put themselves out there amid danger and uncertainty to try to document this pandemic at home as best as they can."

The WPP side of the exhibition includes its 2020 photo of the year, titled Straight Voice. The image depicts a young man lit by the lights of mobile phones as he recites protest poetry against military rule during a blackout in Khartoum, Sudan.

It was taken by Mr Yasuyoshi Chiba, the Agence France-Presse (AFP) chief photographer for East Africa and Indian Ocean who is based in Nairobi, Kenya.

Mr Chiba studied photography at the Musashino Art University in Japan, and joined AFP in 2011. He won the WPP competition in 2009 and 2011 as well.

ST's part of the exhibition will feature photographs documenting Singapore's fight through the pandemic, including those from a series titled A City At A Standstill by Mr Mark Cheong and Mr Benjamin Seetor.

Capturing eerily empty swimming pools, roads, construction sites and heartland areas using drones during Singapore's circuit-breaker period, when all non-essential work and services had stopped, they documented a surreal portrait of a usually bustling metropolis.

"We wanted to use the drones to capture the huge scale of the emptiness, which is very difficult to see from the pictures on the ground," said Mr Cheong, who has been a photojournalist with ST for eight years.

Mr Seetor, who has been taking photos for Singapore Press Holdings for 14 years, emphasised the importance of capturing such a once-in-a-generation event.

  • Event details

  • EXHIBITION AND WEBINAR

    Through The Lens: Photo exhibitions by The Straits Times and World Press Photo

    • Tomorrow to Feb 7

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

    • 10am to 7pm, daily

    • Admission is free

    • Organised by The Straits Times

    • Venue supporter: National Museum of Singapore

    • Logistics Partner: Trinity Cargo Link

    • Outreach Partner: Singapore Press Club

    • Supporter: Samsung

    Website: str.sg/TTL2020


    PHOTOJOURNALISM WEBINAR

    Covering Covid-19: Documenting a new normal amid the pandemic

    • Featuring photojournalists from The Straits Times

    • Date: Jan 27

    • Time: 12.30pm to 1.30pm

    Register at str.sg/JDyV

"Thinking about it now, it is still hard to imagine that a city like ours, open 24 hours a day, could just stop like that," he said.

The exhibition also features the work of Mr Kevin Lim and Ms Neo Xiaobin, who were present on the front-line fight against the virus, photographing the hard and dangerous work of the nurses and doctors of the Covid-19 wards.

The couple, who have a young son, had to grapple with the ethical responsibilities that came with covering the disease close up.

"Especially at the beginning, everything was happening so fast and we were worried every day about our families, and our little guy at home," said Mr Lim, who has been with ST for 11 years.

Besides the personal dimension to the job, they also had to struggle with gaining institutional access, and the trust of patients and healthcare workers, to accurately capture events.

"It really boils down to establishing trust with people and showing them that you can handle their situation with sensitivity and do it justice," said Ms Neo, a photojournalist with 12 years of experience.

But to the couple, it was crucial to push through these issues to continue documenting events not only for now, but also for the future.

As Mr Lim put it: "We had to because it is very important for us as photojournalists to keep a visual record of what happened. It is a duty, and if we don't do it, who would?"

The four photojournalists will also be discussing their experiences in capturing these moments at a webinar titled "Covering Covid-19 - Documenting a new normal amid the pandemic" on Jan 27.

It will be open for registration at str.sg/JDyV until 6pm on Jan 24.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 15, 2021, with the headline 'Get a close-up look at images of Singapore's fight against Covid-19'. Subscribe