House Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin speaking through pictures for charity

House Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin raising funds for 13 charities through photo exhibition

Singapore's 10th Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin has a rather poetic name that manifests in his photography and its purpose.

The Chinese character "chuan" means river and "ren" ("jin" in dialect) means benevolence.

Creeks and plains feature prominently in his landscape photography, and his hobby of over 20 years has become a way of serving the community.

This endeavour began with his first book, The World We Live In, published in 2014 to raise funds for charity. Since then, Mr Tan has continued to raise funds at charity events by auctioning off prints. He has raised over $3 million to date for various charities and causes.

To mark Singapore's bicentennial year - the 200th anniversary of Sir Stamford Raffles' arrival in Singapore in 1819 - Mr Tan will be launching a fund-raising photo exhibition for local charities this Thursday, in partnership with Hope Initiative Alliance, arts@work, Far East Organization and Far East Plaza.

Titled Our Place In The World, the display at Far East Plaza Level 2 Concourse will be open to the public from Feb 1 to Feb 28 this year.

HOME DIFFERENT VIEWS OF LIFE

Part of photography is how you look at the world. Sometimes we get poor weather. But you try and make that work for you. It's about looking for silver linings, and looking from different angles and perspectives... And truly, in everything, there is beauty, isn't it, if we look hard enough. Life is the way it is. But it's how you choose to view it and what you make of it.

MR TAN CHUAN-JIN, Singapore's 10th Speaker of Parliament.

It showcases photographs taken by Mr Tan in 20 countries over the last 20 years. These include panoramic shots of landscapes and cities, with a focus on different peoples and communities who have made their homes in these spaces.

Mr Tan hopes to use the exhibition to raise funds for the poor, disadvantaged and marginalised communities in Singapore.

The public can support the efforts through donations. They can receive a limited-edition exclusive metal print for a $10,000 donation, a premium photo book box set for a $5,000 donation, a special photo book box set for a $1,000 donation, or a postcard pack by giving $50.

All proceeds will go towards 13 partnering charities, including The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund, Care Corner Singapore, Centre for Fathering, HealthServe and The Turning Point, among others.

For Mr Tan - who was an army brigadier-general and head of the Training and Doctrine Command before entering politics - his interest in photography started when he joined the army.


Ginkaku-Ji, Kyoto, Japan. PHOTO: COURTESY OF TAN CHUAN-JIN

In 1988, he was an officer cadet training in the countryside in Sandhurst, England, and wanted to capture the breathtaking and dramatic scenery, but felt that he needed something better than his point-and-shoot camera.

  • HOW TO SUPPORT

  • The public can support the fund-raising efforts by making a donation and receive:

    • A limited-edition exclusive metal print ($10,000 each);

    • A premium photo book box set ($5,000 per set);

    • A special photo book box set ($1,000 per set); or

    • A postcard pack ($50 per pack).

    All proceeds will go towards supporting 13 partnering charities.


Lake Pehoe, Patagonia, Chile. PHOTO: COURTESY OF TAN CHUAN-JIN

He bought his first fully manual film camera, a Praktica BX20, when he went to university in London. It was also then that he started looking at the works of American landscape photographer Ansel Adams.


Shiraito Falls, Fujinomiya, Japan. PHOTO: COURTESY OF TAN CHUAN-JIN

Mr Tan now usually travels with two mirrorless digital cameras, a tripod and three lenses - including a 100-400mm telephoto lens.


Santa Cueva De Montserrat, Spain. PHOTO: COURTESY OF TAN CHUAN-JIN

He also shoots with his iPhone sometimes.

The oldest image in this exhibition was taken about 20 years ago, when he was travelling with his family in the Lake District in England and the most recent one from his trip to Japan last year.


Durdle Door, Jurassic Coast, England. PHOTO: COURTESY OF TAN CHUAN-JIN

Mr Tan has waited as long as five hours to take a photograph.

"Usually, I try to catch the sunset and sunrise. Mostly sunsets, because I can't get up for sunrise," he says with a laugh.


Puente De San Martin, Toledo, Spain. PHOTO: COURTESY OF TAN CHUAN-JIN

He dedicates his second photo book to his family, who have stood patiently with him, often frozen, sometimes sleepy, exhausted, famished and incredulous, as he waited for the perfect shot.


Moray, Peru. PHOTO: COURTESY OF TAN CHUAN-JIN

Mr Tan is married with two children - his daughter is 21 and his son, 17.

Besides being the Speaker, he has been a Member of Parliament for Marine Parade GRC since 2011 and is also president of the Singapore National Olympic Council.


Segovia, Spain. PHOTO: COURTESY OF TAN CHUAN-JIN

"You are wearing different hats, but the cause that I'm serving is the same. It's just applying it in a different space.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Kyoto, Japan. PHOTO: COURTESY OF TAN CHUAN-JIN

"A lot of it is about community. It's about our country. It's about bringing people together," he says.

Mr Tan draws parallels between photography and the way he does things and looks at things.


Matsumi Bridge, Hokkaido, Japan. PHOTO: COURTESY OF TAN CHUAN-JIN

He says: "Part of photography is how you look at the world. Sometimes we get poor weather. But you try and make that work for you. It's about looking for silver linings, and looking from different angles and perspectives.


Salar De Atacama, Chile. PHOTO: COURTESY OF TAN CHUAN-JIN

"Some of my most dramatic pictures came amid poor weather when one would often think that it was a washout.

"And truly, in everything, there is beauty, isn't it, if we look hard enough. Life is the way it is. But it's how you choose to view it and what you make of it."


Lower Pierce Reservoir, Singapore. PHOTO: COURTESY OF TAN CHUAN-JIN

Mr Tan also sees his hobby as a way to do what he can while he is able to.

"If it helps encourage someone, to nudge him or her to donate for a good cause, get a print or get a book, why not?"

• Support the cause by visiting https://www.hia.sg/ourplaceintheworld for more information.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 28, 2019, with the headline 'Speaking through pictures'. Print Edition | Subscribe