Shapes of Home photo contest: Winning photo of Toa Payoh Central took almost 20 hours to post-process

Toa Payoh Soul was a labour of love by videographer Stefan Tan.
Toa Payoh Soul was a labour of love by videographer Stefan Tan.PHOTO: STEFAN TAN

SINGAPORE - A black-and-white photo of Toa Payoh Central that took close to 20 hours to post-process is the winning image in the Housing Board's (HDB) Shapes of Home photo contest.

The photo, which shows off the straight architectural lines of buildings and HDB blocks set against wispy clouds on a sunny day, was a labour of love by videographer Stefan Tan.

"Initially, I corrected all the shadows and highlights but after looking at the final image, it did not achieve the vision I desired," said the 32-year-old, who picked up photography as a hobby in 2011 and turned professional in 2017.

"For the final edit, I decided to completely darken all the other elements that were distracting, keeping only the key elements. Black-and-white photography is one of the hardest things to master," said Mr Tan, who is particularly interested in landscape and architecture photography.

But his laborious work paid off, as the panel of judges said the image was a clear choice for the first prize - a Canon EOS 90D with an 18-135mm kit lens, worth $2,379 in total.

One of the judges, Mr Bryan van der Beek, 44, a professional commercial and editorial photographer, said the photo was a "clear standout" for him.

"The photographer managed to capture a familiar place in a completely different way. It's a great image that can stand both as a piece of art as well as a documentary photo. I would be very happy to frame (it) up and hang on my wall," he said.

The other three judges were HDB's group director of corporate communications, Ms Joyce Ng; Singapore Press Holdings' (SPH) Chinese Media Group photo and video desk chief photographer, Mr Lee Tiah Khee; and The Straits Times' picture editor, Ms Stephanie Yeow.

Held from Sept 1 to Oct 16, the Shapes of Home photo contest invited members of the public to share what home means to them through either green and distinctive HDB designs and architecture, or vibrant heartland moments, including moments in and around homes.

It also marks HDB's 60th anniversary this year.

A total of 3,081 photos were submitted through the open category on SPH's Photonico platform and another 3,127 photos through the Instagram category.

HDB chief executive Cheong Koon Hean said HDB towns have defined Singapore's cityscape for the past six decades, with "new blocks rising among the old and greenery interspersed with brick and mortar".

"I'm heartened to see that the many photos submitted have captured the evolution of public housing over the years and shown us everyday moments of what HDB living in the heartlands is all about," she said.

The second prize in the open category went to Mr Kenneth Chiang, 25, a fifth-year architecture student at the National University of Singapore, for his photo taken at The Pinnacle  @  Duxton.


Sunlight peeks through the blocks of Pinnacle@Duxton in the evening of July 17, 2020. PHOTO: KENNETH CHIANG

"I thought the way the sunlight reflected and cast shadows on the older flats was rather sublime, and decided to frame the Pinnacle @ Duxton within the context of the existing buildings around it," said Mr Chiang, who chanced upon the vantage point while exploring the estate.

A colourful photo of an HDB block in MacPherson getting a fresh coat of paint was awarded the first prize in the Instagram category.

Mr Ng Wee Liang, a 21-year-old full-time national serviceman, was at the ground level when he noticed the workers painting but decided to photograph it from the opposite HDB block for an eye-level shot.


Foreign workers giving Block 68 Circuit Road a fresh coat of paint. PHOTO: NG WEE LIANG

He said: "To some, HDB estates are quite boring and just where people live, but I want to show others that there are beautiful places in these everyday places that may not be tourist attractions."

View all winning entries at Photonico's website.