Lengkok Bahru through their eyes

Lengkok Bahru through their eyes
BUDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS: (Front row, from left) Firdaus Hakim Rasdi, 16, Danny Azrin Abdullah, 15, and Arash Mohammad Yasin, 17, took part in the In The Interim photography project. They were led by (back row, from left) Mr Khamsya Khidzer, 29, and Mr Shamil Zainuddin, 31, from volunteer group Kopitiam Lengkok Bahru.
PHOTO: The New Paper

Rental flats are often seen as hotbeds for crime such as vice activities, gangsterism, and drug abuse.

And some of the residents there are seen as troublemakers and wayward youth.

But a group of sociology graduates from the National University of Singapore (NUS) saw potential and hidden talent in these young people instead.

After teaching them photography skills, the graduates have organised an exhibition, allowing nine of these young people to display their photographs.

Lengkok Bahru is a housing estate of one-room rental flats in the Jalan Bukit Merah area.

Residents there told The New Paper that their estate is often seen as being full of crime and poor people.

Secondary Four student Arash Mohammad Yasih, 17, who lives in a rental flat there, said "People sometimes think we are doing bad things here. That is not true."

These nine teens who live there want to debunk that stereotype through their photography exhibition.


Titled In The Interim, the exhibition is at Artistry Cafe at Jalan Pinang, in the Victoria Street area, till July 27.

The exhibition title was chosen due to the transitional nature of rental houses.

It features photographs by these young residents, aged 13 to 18, showing what goes on in their estate and was first held at the *Scape Media Hub on May 30 and 31.

One of the contributors, Secondary Four student Arash Mohammad Yasih, 17, said: "Lengkok Bahru is not a place full of gangsters and where just poor people stay."

He has been living in Lengkok Bahru for 11 months and took photos of his favourite place, the football field in his neighbourhood.

"We share our happiness together and we all have a kampung spirit," he said.

The exhibition is organised by the NUS graduates, who call themselves Kopitiam Lengkok Bahru (KLB).

Under their guidance, the teenagers went through weekly evening sessions which included photography classes, storytelling courses and theatre workshops.

Danny Azrin Abdullah, 15, who has been living in Lengkok Bahru for almost half a year, said: "Before this, I only liked playing football. But now I have more hobbies and have more confidence to try things."

To prepare for their exhibition, the teens went through a five-week photography course organised by Nikon.

They were then given used film cameras and were told to photograph their daily lives.

One of KLB's members, NUS researcher Khamsya Khidzer, 29, said the group's work was always driven by one aim: to help the youths gain confidence.

He said: "We wanted to empower the youths here with new skills and let them find out that they can be good in other things."

Preparations for the exhibition began in June last year, when Mr Khamsya and some of his friends from school wanted to help people living in rental flats there.

They partnered independent initiative 50/100 and welfare organisation Beyond Social Services (BSS) to plan In The Interim.

Mr Kevin See, 25, a social worker from BSS, said: "Our work is always about engaging our young, getting them exposed to things that they usually don't and allowing themselves to discover strengths within them."

The teens involved are grateful for this chance to show off their talents.

Danny said: "It feels good. I never would have thought I could do something like this. I had never even held a film camera before."

Arash agreed: "At first, I did not know how to take photos.

"But now my photos are in an exhibition together with all my friends'.

"And knowing that makes me happy".



This article was first published on July 20, 2015.
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