We talk to photographer Philipp Aldrup about Serangoon Road, where he finds it a place of "enthralling relaxation." He, together with 3 other photographers mentored 30 students in a year-long photography project aiming to document the more intimate and poignant sides of this colourful district.
Why is Serangoon Road special to you?
While for some the area around Serangoon Road might appear rather chaotic, maybe uncomfortable, even stressful, for me it has always been (and in some parts still is) a place of enthralling relaxation. Walking the streets, resting in kopi stalls and food places, rummaging at the flea market is a relief from an otherwise monotonous and over-regulated landscape of many other parts in Singapore.
What did you learn from the project?
Photographing it years back taught me framing seemingly disorderly scenes, making sense of confusion, bringing a certain order to randomness. Reviewing the students’ photographs showed me the many other perspectives one can look at the area and how they as beginners approach the site in often similar ways as I did back then: sometimes distanced and shy, helpless and insecure, sometimes courageous and straight forward, unbiased and fully immersed.
What are 3 must visit places?
I am afraid my favourite places have since all disappeared: the old kopi place at the corner of Upper Weld Road and Clive Street, the Rochor Flea Market and soon Rochor Centre. The neighbourhood of the beautiful old Far Kor Sun Monkey God Temple at Marne Road has now completely changed to the ubiquitous condominium environment.
Why is Serangoon Road so popular with photographers?
Despite the many changes to the site during recent years, it has still kept an atmosphere unique to Singapore. While other historic areas (like Chinatown or Joo Chiat) have been overly cleaned up, gentrified or commercialised, the area around Serangoon Road still has the energetic vibe of an intimate neighbourhood with unregulated liveliness and humble inventiveness.
What are some tips on how to photograph the soul of a place?
Spend time. Be patient. Don’t rush. Shoot more, feel more. Listen. Stay and look around. Hang out, chat with people, eat and drink. Make friends. Visit it again — and again.
“DOCUMENTING: Serangoon Road” is at the Singapore City Gallery, the URA Centre ground floor till 29 April 2017. The exhibition showcases fresh images of the familiar Serangoon Road, taken by Philipp Aldrup and 3 other photographers, Darren Soh, Chia Aik Beng and Bernice Wong, and 30 students mentored under the year-long photography project, initiated by URA in partnership with National Youth Achievement Award Council (NYAA) Young Photographers Network.
Philipp Aldrup is a photographer from Germany. He has been based in Southeast Asia for more than 12 years. Puzzled by the brevity of human existence against the vastness of time and space, his work is both a poetic contemplation of life and a rebellion against the imperatives of commercialisation and commodification. His series "Tidal Pools" is a photographic excavation of shrouded, neglected spaces in Singapore. In the "Blue Flower", he delved deeper into the poetry of dusky urban niches to compose witful and disquieting photographs if micro-landscapes filled with rocks, soil and perplexing formations of colour. www.philipp-aldrup.com
Our chat with photographer Darren Soh last week is here. Check out Philipp's past excursion through Geylang.