Do a good deed, you're on candid camera

Do a good deed, you're on candid camera
Engineer Poh Jing Chieh (above, wearing green cap) and head of business development Samsul Ariffin (far left) helping 21-year-old Ziyad Bagharib after he fell while posing as a beggar for the Hidden Good project.

Street photography that tells the stories of ordinary people, "candid camera" shows that test how Singaporeans react in challenging situations, and organised picnics for strangers.

These are among recent initiatives that have been launched to promote a more gracious, empathetic society at a time when social media is becoming increasingly filled with negativity.

Many of these initiatives have been set up as a result of casual conversations. Take, for example, 20-year-old Rovik Robert, who came up with the idea for his Hidden Good website after talking to a friend on an MRT train.

"We felt there was a lot of negativity online," said Mr Robert, who plans projects for the Hidden Good site on top of his day job as a social media executive. "We thought: There has to be a place for people to get together to talk in a more positive way and share their stories."

One of the Hidden Good's more popular projects is its YouTube video channel, The Hood Factory, which has almost 4,000 subscribers.

Mr Robert and his team secretly film Singaporeans, by staging social situations to see how they react. One video, which has attracted more than 27,000 views, shows national servicemen witnessing a snatch theft, which was staged. All but one of them ran after the "thief" to stop him.

"I've always wanted to do that video even when I was in NS," said Mr Robert. "My friends and I felt that NSFs (full-time national servicemen) get a lot of unwanted attention online. We wanted to tackle the issue head on.

"We don't plan anything, so all the reactions are spontaneous. It's very exciting and affirming. I feel good going up to Singaporeans and saying to them, 'What you did is what we want to show people.'"

Strategic consultant Shitij Nigam, 23, and his friend, undergraduate Darshna Dudhoria, 21, roam the streets and the heartland every weekend to photograph and interview people for their Facebook page, Humans of Singapore.

With more than 19,000 "likes", the project is a nod to the popular Humans of New York page started by an American photographer who set out to capture 10,000 subjects in the Big Apple.

The Singaporean version has featured people ranging from a nonagenarian who still looks after his handicapped daughter even after his son cut him off, to a domestic abuse victim who is picking up the pieces of her life.

"The goal is to build empathy," said Mr Nigam. "When we meet people on the street or train, we often don't realise they're going through so much in their lives. We hope that by sharing their stories, this will help Singaporeans know more about other people." The duo intend to exhibit some of their photos at the Fengshan Community Club next month.

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