Portrait of a nation in 50 faces

Portrait of a nation in 50 faces
Photographer Tay Kay Chin shooting Ms Eliza Chia for his SG50 project. The early childhood teacher, who turns 36 on National Day, thinks the project “gives a sense of community spirit, and it’s very local”. Mr Tay needs 11 more people to complete his project.

For National Day, photographer Tay Kay Chin has set himself a goal: to photograph one person born on Aug 9 for every year of Singapore's independence.

But there is a problem.

He is still looking for 11 people born in the following years - 1970, 1975, 1977, 1980, 1984, 1986, 2000, 2002, 2005, 2009 and 2011 - to complete his project.

Mr Tay, born on July 8, 1965, said: "I'm exactly one month and one day older than Singapore.

"So I've always been intrigued by what it would be like to be born on National Day."

The seeds of his project were sown more than a decade ago, when he decided to photograph 40 people for Singapore's 40th birthday.

Then - about a year ago - the Land Transport Authority (LTA) commissioned a second run of 50 faces to celebrate the nation's Jubilee year.

"We started working with (Mr Tay) last year since he had worked on similar projects in the past," said an LTA spokesman.

"The artwork will be unveiled by this year's National Day."

The completed series of portraits will be permanently displayed at Marina Bay MRT station, as part of the LTA's Art in Transit project.

Mr Tay shoots his subjects in locations that hold meaning for them - near their homes, workplaces or places from their childhood.

Around 15 people in the jubilee project were part of his first series, and agreed to have their pictures taken a second time.

Said Mr Tay: "The joy of meeting people I met 10 years ago, when they tell me what has changed over the past 10 years... it's like meeting old friends."

One of them is art teacher Pauline Ang, who will turn 39 in August. Looking back on the past decade, Ms Ang said: "Time has really flown and my life has moved on."

But other things, she added, stay the same.

"I used to do a lot of music; now I do visual art.

"But I still love teaching, and the passion for that has always been there."

A new face is early childhood teacher Eliza Chia, who will turn 36 in August. She said: "I think the project is pretty cool. It gives a sense of community spirit, and it's very local."

Mr Tay feels that to a certain extent, his work mirrors Singaporean society.


This article was first published on June 02, 2015.
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