Pioneer celebration

For eight months, he had been photographing residents of Potong Pasir and their former Member of Parliament Chiam See Tong.

But Mr Basil Edward Teo had left his cameras at home on the day he chanced upon Mr Chiam's 79th birthday celebration in March.

Good thing he had his iPhone with him. He used it to capture Mr Chiam's wife adjusting his spectacles as friends and family members sang the birthday song.

This picture is featured in My Kind Of Town, a video clip of Mr Chiam and Potong Pasir. Mr Teo and three of his classmates had created the video for their final-year project at Nanyang Technological University's Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information.

The recent graduate and freelance photographer remembered the picture when he saw last week's Big Picture contest theme To Our Pioneers, which called for tributes to the immigrants and early generations who built this nation.

"I thought, metaphorically, the cake was a tribute and Mr Chiam himself is a pioneer. He is not a coolie, but a pioneer in opposition politics in Singapore," said the 25-year-old.

"He brought change to the way we perceive what an MP is, as well as the state of politics in Singapore."

Mr Teo's picture, which was unanimously shortlisted in the final choosing, won the $500 prize for this year-long competition organised by The New Paper and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth to encourage Singaporeans to document everyday life in the city.


One of the judges, Mr Sam Chin, said he picked the picture because it captured a "lovely moment" of a prominent pioneer.

"This is my choice shot because of all the subtle details in the image that gives us an insight into Mr Chiam's life," he said.

"From the smiley stars in the background to Mrs Chiam adjusting his glasses, the picture sums it all up for me."

The photo was also the winner for Mr Desmond Lui, who praised the photographer for being in the moment to shoot this.

"Sometimes, gaining access is winning half of the battle," he said.

"This is a beautifully captured moment of a man who has contributed to the building of our nation and a befitting winner to this week's theme."

The third judge, Mr Chong Jun Liang, felt that the picture had an "awkward and loose" composition. His initial choice was a "cleanly-shot and well-composed" picture by Mr Zhang Longfei of an elderly lady living at Redhill.

"The photographer timed his shot perfectly to capture the joyful expression of Madam Woo laughing as she shared a happy moment.

"In the background, we see a younger woman smiling kindly at Madam Woo, adding a good balance to the picture.

"It fits the theme of appreciating our pioneers."

To see Mr Zhang's photo and last week's other finalists, go to The Big Picture's website at

Freelance photographer captures 'lovely moment' of Mrs Lina Chiam adjusting Mr Chiam See Tong's glasses during his birthday celebration.

This article was first published on Oct 21, 2014.
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