New focus on natural beauty

New focus on natural beauty
Muhammad Haris Abu Talib has had an photo exhibition during his days in Republic Polytechnic.

When he was 18, a car accident dashed his dream of becoming a national athlete.

The deadly hit-and-run incident involving a Romanian diplomat made headlines around the world.

But Mr Muhammad Haris Abu Talib, a civil servant, now 23, was not one to dwell on missed chances. Instead, he took the opportunity to reinvent himself.

Five years on, he is now known among his peers for his passion in photography.

On Dec 15, 2009, Mr Haris was riding his skate scooter along Bukit Panjang Road, when he was struck by a car driven by Silviu Ionescu.

The incident also injured two Malaysians, Mr Bong Hwee Haw, then 24, and Mr Tong Kok Wai, 30. Mr Tong died from his injuries more than a week later.

Ionescu fled Singapore immediately, but was charged in Romania and sentenced to six years' jail for manslaughter. The 53-year-old died of heart problems on Tuesday in a Bucharest jail.

The accident left Mr Haris with a torn ligament in his left ankle, which meant he could no longer pursue sports.

Realising that he could not become a national rower any more, he decided to take up a more artistic endeavour.

He joined the photography club when he entered Republic Polytechnic, where he pursued a diploma in digital entertainment electronics.

"I decided that I should try different things since I was no longer able to pursue my interest," he said.

He quickly discovered that he liked travel photography. And, during his polytechnic years, he honed his craft by going to many places, including Thailand, Cambodia and New Zealand.

He even held a photo exhibition at his school in 2011 where he showcased the photos he took.


Mr Haris was also in charge of teaching the younger students the basics of photography.

One of his students, Miss Trudy Tan, 19, who was his junior in the interest group, said he was always motivated about photography.

"I remember how proud he was when one of his photos was used on the front page of a special edition of the school publication," she said.

Another schoolmate, Mr Muhammad Mursyid Hassan, 19, was impressed with how well Mr Haris adapted to his new passion.

He said: "It is commendable how he switched from sports to photography so seamlessly."

With his ankle fully recovered and the incident long behind him, Mr Haris said he was sympathetic to Ionescu's family over the news of his death, adding that he no longer holds a grudge against the Romanian.

"There is no point being angry at something that happened so long ago, I just want to move on."

This article was first published on Dec 13, 2014.
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