#HOTH: Keeping the Heartland Love in a Photograph

@jon.chiang, @suspendtime and @momentos_sg – these are some of the familiar names, or rather Instagram handles, in the local photography scene. Known for their eye-catching visuals, these photographers have captured previously undiscovered spots in the heartland through their lenses, lending them a unique perspective.

In celebration of HDB’s 60th anniversary, HDB and SPH have launched Photonico: Shapes of Home, a photo competition that documents the transformation of public housing over the years. We speak to several photographers on the Shapes of Home as captured through their lenses.

Jon Chiang (@jon.chiang)

Architecture photographer Jon

Having first picked up the camera in 2008, 30-year-old photographer Jon has never since put it down. In addition to documenting urban landscapes and Singapore architecture, he is also a contributing photographer at Getty Images. On weekends, Jon would spend time exploring and capturing Singapore’s landscape.

Sunrise at Jurong East Vista

“I love documenting Singapore’s ever-changing landscape – particularly HDB flats, as they are one of Singapore’s most iconic features. I enjoy capturing the unique aspects of an estate, such as the colourful Mondrian-inspired paint job of Teck Whye and Macpherson. I also like to capture panoramic shots of the estate, taken from vantage points with the sunrise or sunset as the backdrop.”

Unique design features of HDB flats such as circular porthole balcony cut-outs often catch the eye of photographers

Having lived in Toh Guan estate for over two decades, Jon has explored and documented the neighbourhood extensively. Sharing some of his favourite photography spots around the estate, Jon says, “As an architectural photographer, I’m always on the lookout for unique design features. So the circular porthole balcony cut-outs of the HDB flats in my estate really stands out to me.”

Having lived in Toh Guan estate for over two decades, Jon has explored and documented the neighbourhood extensively. Sharing some of his favourite photography spots around the estate, Jon says, “As an architectural photographer, I’m always on the lookout for unique design features. So the circular porthole balcony cut-outs of the HDB flats in my estate really stand out to me.”

A breath-taking photo of a storm from Bukit Batok Skyline captured by Jon in November 2018

“The recently-completed Bukit Batok Skyline offers the best vantage point to capture Toh Guan estate,” Jon shares. “Not only does it provide an unblocked view of the estate, the spot is also a prime location for storm-chasing!”

Another one of Jon’s favourite estates is Bishan. “I like the estate’s nature-inspired landscaping and the iconic double-pitched sloping rooftops of the HDB flats surrounding Bishan Park,” he says.   

“I love how accessible HDB estates are,” Jon says. “The high-rise HDB blocks make excellent locations to capture the estates.”

Joshua Ng, (@suspendtime)

Known for his creative photography, Joshua’s visuals are exactly described in his Instagram handle. “I started my photography journey by joining a group of friends on their photo adventures,” Joshua shares. “Having followed local photographers on social media, I was motivated by their works and from there, my passion for photography grew. I was also inspired by the use of props and the ability to include elements of the surrounding environment in their photos, such as those by the Yusman twins (@yafiqyusman & @yaisyusman).”

Props such as magnifying glasses are often used in creative photography

“Through photo walks, I have made friends with photographers who share the same interests,” Josh says “We’d spend the weekends exploring all parts of Singapore, including HDB estates. Some of these photographers include Miguel (@momentos_sg), Eric (@sgpoonie). The Yusman twins are especially fun to work with – their creativity never fails to amaze me.”

Joshua’s favourite shot taken with the Yusman twins features a badminton court in Boon Keng 

While exploring hidden spots in the heartland, Joshua’s interest was piqued by the architectural details of HDB flats. “The interesting design elements inspired me to compose and edit my shots in a minimalist style. I also love the effect of putting the architecture into scale by including human subjects, to emphasise  the vastness of the building.”

Joshua enjoys looking at architecture from a different perspective

So what goes into the perfect shot? From venue research to route planning, Joshua explains what goes on behind the camera. “Planning is essential,” the photographer says. “It’s similar to planning a holiday itinerary – I’d research the venues to better visualise the concept. However, I don’t really go on recce trips, as I find impromptu photo walks more exciting – they give you a sense of accomplishment when you discover a space.”

Miguel, (@momentos_sg)

Photographer Miguel

Originally from Portugal, Miguel is known for his heartland photography. Having resided in Singapore for almost two decades, Miguel has explored almost every corner of Singapore – he names Chinatown as his favourite to capture on camera. “Chinatown is home to amazing architecture and is always buzzing with energy,” Miguel smiles. “I enjoy documenting geometric elements and photos that showcase contrasting colours with just a touch of human photography.”

Miguel captures the vibrancy of Ang Mo Kio
The turquoise-green column and long, white corridors of the HDB flats at Yung Kuang Road have made them an Instagram hotspot

Just as he has constantly returned to Chinatown to capture different aspects of the neighbourhood, Miguel has also regularly revisited Blocks 63 and 66 at Yung Kuang Road at Taman Jurong. “These two blocks were the first HDB flats that I photographed,” Miguel reminisces. “With their diamond-shaped facade, green columns and endless lines of white corridors, the blocks are an Instagram hotspot.”

Although Miguel usually takes photos in daylight, he does capture the occasional night shot. “You can capture a different perspective of the same spot in different lighting,” Miguel shares. “To me, both day and night photography are equally interesting.”

So what are you waiting for? Embark on your own photo walk and capture your shapes of home. Showcase your creativity and tell us what home means to you in the Shapes of Home photo competition. You can submit your entries featuring architectural elements of HDB estates and/or heartland moments here or hashtag #ShapesofHome on Instagram!

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