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The chock-a-block malls and corporate skyscrapers, Art Deco shophouses and public housing in Singapore not only house some five million residents – they are a blueprint of our nation’s journey from sleepy fishing village to bustling metropolis. Sadly, as with most thriving cities, few Singaporeans in their hasty commute would stop to admire our potpourri of architectural styles, such as the juxtaposition of colonial-era structures alongside modern shopping complexes.

Photographers Marcel Heijnen, Rory Daniel and Mark Teo see things quite differently from most Singaporeans. While shooting Singapore’s architectural landscape, they have found beauty where it is not commonly found and uncovered a sense of Singapore’s national identity. They tell Going Places Singapore why they take a particular interest in Singaporean architecture and how every photograph tells a story.

Mark Teo’s passion lies in shooting urban subcultures and extreme sports, which reveals his enthusiasm for movement. His architectural shots are a result of a mix of commissioned assignments and personal attempts to document the ever-changing landscape of Singapore.

What do you think is interesting about Singapore's architecture?

What do you think is interesting about Singapore's architecture?

It has to be the mix of old, like shophouses and walkup apartments, with the new, such as malls or office buildings. The assignment and conservation of heritage sites definitely plays a part in creating this blend.

Why do you pick a particular building instead of similar ones beside it or nearby?

A lot of the buildings are selected based on incidental sightings from walks or looking out the car window. When I work with international athletes, for press reasons, I also need to find suitable ‘Singaporean’ backdrops to photograph them against.

Do you use a special technique to capture your shots?

Do you use a special technique to capture your shots?

Mostly just a camera on a good tripod to keep it steady for long exposure shots. Using this technique creates motion blur and light trails which lend some ‘energy’ to the image. We get a sense of the flow of activity or hustle and bustle of the space.

What story are you trying to tell with your photos?

I’m just trying to document or capture that particular moment in time so that years down the road, there is a memento or some form of record of what my city was like. This is something I may be able to share with future generations of Singaporeans.

Rory Daniel’s portfolio of commercial work is nothing short of diverse – he photographs food, fashion, lifestyle, corporate, travel and architecture. After the Australian fell in love with Singapore and adopted the country as his home, he was drawn to our skyline, which, to him, represents a home filled with endless opportunities.

What do you think is interesting about Singapore's architecture?

What do you think is interesting about Singapore's architecture?

Singapore's skyline fascinates me. There are endless angles to explore and discover to make compelling and fresh images. New modern architecture sits comfortably next to a building built in 1929. For a photographer, there are lots of opportunities to visually compare and contrast buildings from different eras to make interesting images.

Singapore's skyline is also at human scale, unlike Shanghai's oversized edifices, which make you feel small and isolated. The lighting systems used to make the buildings come alive at night make the skyline fascinating at dusk.

Why do you pick particular buildings for your photos?

I am constantly on the lookout for different vistas and angles, and am naturally very curious. I am fascinated with working out how everything fits together in Singapore – the roads and linkages, the different neighbourhoods and the transport system. I satisfy this curiosity by walking or cycling everywhere. I am also attracted to bold shapes, quirky details and poetic combinations.

Do you use a special technique to capture your shots?

Do you use a special technique to capture your shots?

I use a tilt-shift lens to not only keep all lines vertical, but also to create super wide-framed images that allow me to fit a lot more into a picture. I love the big and gutsy images the technique produces. The lens allows you to fit full-sized skyscrapers into a frame even when relatively close to the building, and it also produces panoramas.

Do you wait for a certain light to hit the buildings to add nuance to a photograph?

Probably the most important part of architectural photography is knowing when the light will be at its most appealing. So the time of day is critical to the success of an image.

I tend not to wait for light though – I turn up when I predict the light is going to be right for any given building. I will drag myself out of bed for a dawn shot if I want to maximise my chances of having a deep blue sky, or turn up at 7pm for the blue light that lasts about seven minutes right after the sun has set.

Visual artist, designer and musician Marcel Heijnen has dwelled in Asia for over two decades since uprooting himself from his Netherlands home. He takes great pleasure in being creative whether for design, photography or music. In 2013, he launched a photography book, Residue, as part of The Invisible Photographer Photo Books Show at the National Museum of Singapore.

What drew you to Singapore’s architecture?

What drew you to Singapore’s architecture?

I find HDBs really interesting, specifically in a visual way. They are seemingly generic, yet they are not. Coming from a graphic design background, I find the colours, large numbers and patterns that are applied to the blocks really fascinating.

I chose to shoot in the heartlands because I feel that the CBD skyline with the Marina Bay Sands and Singapore Flyer gets more than enough limelight. For my works I use an emotive and subjective, rather than an objective, approach to photography and I opt to avoid specific buildings in my works. I aim to put across the overall feeling that the subject matter brings, such as the rhythms of the blocks and the composition of the clusters of buildings.

What technique do you use to process your photos to achieve your unique distressed effect?

I use nothing but a clear glass panel and a camera. I place the panel in front of a weathered wall and capture the reflections of nearby buildings when the light is just right. This way, the texture of the distressed wall and the image of the buildings mix. There's no double exposures or Photoshop layering involved.

This is a method I developed in 2009 and has resulted in an ever-growing body of work called Residue that includes similar works shot in other Asian cities. I've had a number of exhibitions with the series and a large coffee table book on the Residue series which was published in October 2013.

What story are you trying to tell with your photos?

What story are you trying to tell with your photos?

Everything is in flux. Always. In Singapore we are confronted by it and this may not necessarily be a bad thing. I hope that my works in Residue make people reflect on not only the impermanence of buildings but on life itself, and see how precious it really is.

Do you wait for a certain light to hit the buildings to add nuance to the photograph?

Yes. The last 10 to 15 minutes of sunlight on a clear day works best. I prefer warm, directional light that gives definition and dimension to buildings.