Prize-winning amateur photographer undergoing treatment for cancer

Mr Lui Hock Seng is suffering from lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, and has undergone four rounds of chemotherapy, with two more rounds scheduled. He works as a cleaner at Singapore Press Holdings but is now on medical leave.
Mr Lui Hock Seng is suffering from lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, and has undergone four rounds of chemotherapy, with two more rounds scheduled. He works as a cleaner at Singapore Press Holdings but is now on medical leave.ST PHOTO: WANG HUI FEN

A cleaner and amateur photographer, who held his first solo exhibition at the age of 81, is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.

Mr Lui Hock Seng yesterday told The Straits Times he is suffering from lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system.

He has undergone four rounds of chemotherapy, with two more rounds scheduled. He works as a cleaner at Singapore Press Holdings, which publishes The Straits Times, but is now on medical leave. "I don't see many people because my immune system is poor," he said in Mandarin during a phone interview.

Mr Lui had his first solo photo exhibition last year at Objectifs, a centre for photography and film located in Middle Road. Titled Passing Time, it showcased black and white photographs of Singapore that he took in the 1960s and 1970s. His first photo book, bearing the same title, was later published by Objectifs.

Last August, Mr Lui experienced symptoms like breathlessness and occasional bleeding from the nose, but a doctor he consulted did not find anything wrong.

About a month later, he was in pain and went to a hospital's emergency department. Doctors found that a blood clot near his brain was pressing on his eye, causing the bleeding. He was diagnosed with lymphoma.

Mr Lui is married with three sons. His wife, 81, uses a wheelchair and is in an old folks' home.

 
 
 
 

He lives in a four-room Housing Board flat in Bishan with a son in his 50s, whose mobility is impaired. Another son, aged 44, has returned to Singapore to help care for Mr Lui, after working in Thailand for about eight years in the oil and gas industry.

"I cannot afford a helper. I'm happy that one of my sons has returned to care for me," said Mr Lui.

The former mechanic became interested in photography when he was a teenager in the late 1950s. A brother bought him his first camera, a German-made Rolleiflex, more than 50 years ago.

His works include images of a now-vanished Singapore, such as scenes of kampung life and Chinatown's snake-meat vendors. He has won prizes in several photography competitions over the years.

In April last year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong shared a BBC video of Mr Lui in a Facebook post, calling him a "brilliant example of active ageing".

These days, Mr Lui has little inclination for photography. He said: "Now, I look like a 120-year-old man. The cancer came as a big shock. I want to be healthy again."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2019, with the headline 'Prize-winning amateur photographer undergoing treatment for cancer'. Print Edition | Subscribe