Alvin Soon's Blog

Alvin Soon male Associate Features Editor

I like coffee and cameras, but not together.

Behind the Scenes of an Overseas Field Photography Exhibit

There's currently a photo exhibition of 10 Japanese students' work in the National Geographic Store at Vivocity. These students from the Nippon Photography Institute in Tokyo, Japan, are having quite the adventure.

In the last three months, as part of an overseas photo fieldwork course, they've traveled across Taiwan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia under the guidance of their course lecturer Taiji Igarashi. They arrived in Singapore last week to kick off the exhibition before embarking for another three months of fieldwork. In total, they'll visit a grand total of 10 Asian countries before returning to Japan.

I visited with the students and their lecturers and asked them about the stories behind their photographs, all of which were taken with an Olympus Mju Tough 6010 digital camera.

"I climbed the stairs and after reaching a very high place, I found this space where people pray. I found the light from the outside coming in and the reds and yellows very beautiful." Photographed in Angkor Watt, Cambodia by Kasumi Asai, 21.

"When I arrived in Hanoi, I was shocked by the number of motorcycles in the evening." Photographed in Hanoi, Vietnam by Shohko Hamaguchi, 20.

"When I came here, I was surprised by how the ethnic minority and common people co-exist together in the same place, so I was waited for these two people to cross each other and took this photograph." Photographed in Sapa, Vietnam by Tetsuro Yano, 20.

"When I started climbing, the sun was out so I could see many vibrant colors, but after some time it became cloudy and then the sun was covered completely. Everything then became a black and white world. Photographed at Mount Kinabalu, Borneo, by Musashi Tsubaki, 20.

When asked how the experience has benefitted them, Akina Okada, 20, mentioned she's learned how to manage her time. "Compared to when I was in Japan, now I use the time in a day without wasting it."

Hiroyuki Nojiri, 24 adds that because many places they've visited don't speak English, he's had to learn how to communicate in other ways. "If I don’t communicate to people, I can't go ahead and take pictures. So I used my body language, using hands, gestures, expressions, to show the local people that I was harmless. "

Having photographed in Kenya and Tanzania and published with National Geographic, the students' course lecturer Taiji Igarashi is no stranger to field photography. I asked him what he'd like his students to gain most from this six-month journey and he replied that "what I want them to learn is that many things you cannot do easily. In Japan, there are so many convenience stores; you get everything easily any time of the day. But not during this trip. You have to communicate with people from different cultures, with no common language, work in changing weather, everything is different. So they have to struggle.

"But I think struggle is the most important thing, not only for photography, but for the person. After struggling I believe that they can grow and improve their skills, their feelings, their mentality, everything. So that is the thing I really want them to learn. And they do actually, after six months."

The exhibition is currently on-going at the National Geographic store in Vivocity until the 31st of June. Entrance is free.

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