Ordinary can be extraordinary

Ordinary can be extraordinary

She sits on the floor of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple at Chinatown, resting one hand on her Nikon camera.

"There's this interesting woman who frequents this place. She used to be a 'sor hei' (dialect for 'live-in domestic servant').

"Today, she collects cardboard for a living," says IT consultant Robin Ann Rheaume, 50.

She is waiting for her because she wants to try to photograph her again, even though she had been rejected before.

"The woman told me I shouldn't take her picture because she's poor, and it's shameful to be poor," says Ms Rheaume.

"In general, people think their worth is based on how many of the five Cs they have. I hope to dispel that."

To do that, the Canadian-born Singapore permanent resident started a Facebook page and Tumblr blog two years ago, called The People of Singapore.

There, she showcases her photographs and conversations with strangers she meets.

She has featured more than 500 stories of ordinary people living and working here, from migrant workers to lonely retirees.

She has spoken to a gamut of people - from a taxi driver who spends 16 hours a day on the road, a karung guni man who peddles his wares at

Sungei Road and even a 97-year-old retiree who was a Japanese prisoner-of-war.


"Too often, we see stories of people being successful.

But I think they make ordinary people feel bad about themselves," says Ms Rheaume.

"This (The People of Singapore) is just my contribution to the larger discussion of the Singaporean identity."

We tag along on one of her photography hikes in Chinatown.

"Meet me at the place where all the old men play chess," she says, adding that the place is one of her favourite ones to get stories.

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