Saturday, November 15, 2008

Stumped by “Ethnic Background”

I’ve just signed up for a distance-learning programme. After months and months of procrastination, followed by week after week of surfing practically all the available courses online, I finally selected one I liked and paid up for it. Upon my payment, I received the course materials the next day plus an application form that I had to fill up to register for a particular certification.

Now form filling is one of the most mundane things we have been doing all our lives so most of us would do it with our eyes closed right? But on this particular form, I was stumped by one section that required me to specify my ethnic group i.e. my cultural background. The choices listed were: White, Mixed Race, Asian, Asian British, Black, Black British, Chinese or others. Without even thinking, I crossed an “X” for Chinese. Then I re-read the other choices and decided that I should change it to Asian instead because Chinese probably meant Chinese from Mainland China. I then had to specify further my Asian background. The examples given were: Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi. I typed “Singaporean” then paused for a moment to think…should I specify “Chinese Singaporean” instead? Wait a minute…or should it be “Singaporean Chinese?”

For the first time in my life, I had to think real hard about my ethnic background…what am I? Am I a Chinese first then a Singaporean or am I a Singaporean first before I’m Chinese? After several moments of deep thinking, I decided that I am a fourth generation Singaporean who happens to be a Chinese so my final decision was I’m a Singaporean Chinese.

In today’s context, I don’t see why there’s a need to specify right down to the exact what’s our ethnic background. Moreover, I wasn’t applying for any residential or citizenship status in another country but merely doing an online academic programme. If this world would like to see greater harmony among its inhabitants, I suggest we start eliminating the need to differentiate. By focusing more on the similarities rather than the differences, the easier it is for us to assimilate and accept each other. After all, aren’t we all of the same kind…just human?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Retro even in photography

We’ve seen retro fashion-wear for quite a while – in clothes, shoes, spectacles etc. but who would have guessed that mankind’s interest in technology can also become retrospective. There’s a growing craze all over the world in lomography – the “back to basic” way in photography involving just a simple non-battery operated camera with no zoom lens and no LCD display screen. Sounds crazy? Read on. You need to load in films manually and wind it manually after every shot you take. Sounds unbelievable right? Believe me, it’s true.

There are now lomography clubs everywhere. I wouldn’t have noticed this craze if not for a set of Diana F+ lomo camera I received as a birthday gift a few months back. I didn’t use it at all until I went Vietnam but that first roll I shot with my friends turned out to be totally under-exposed…in other words, all the shots were black. I’ve been experimenting with the Diana F+ again the last couple of weeks and fortunately, I finally managed to capture some shots in two rolls of 16 exposures. Here are some of the shots, scanned from the processed 120mm negative films.
Umm…I didn’t chopped off the kids’ faces intentionally, they just turned out like that. I suppose that’s the fun part in lomography… you don’t know what you’re going to get until the films are processed. And winding the shots manually means sometimes the shots get overlapped, creating dual, triple or quadruple images, as you can see in some of mine.

If blurry and off-colour pictures sound like fun to you, then go pick one up and play with it. But one warning, indulging in this old-style photography doesn’t come cheap. The camera costs around $150 and each roll of 120mm film costs around $6 and processing it is another $6. The films are hard to get and the labs that process them are also a rarity nowadays. So indulge in this form of art…only if you’ve got spare cash and nowhere to splurge.

Thanks to the friend who bought me the camera and included 14 rolls of negatives and positives as well, I can continue to have my fun for now…until my films run out. ^_^

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