When Seniors Turn Shutterbugs

As the digital tide continues its relentless rise, the notion that seniors and technology don’t mix is also fast diminishing. It’s a truly modern sight – seniors wielding their mobile devices, documenting everyday moments with a tap of a screen. But just how good could their photos turn out to be?

Seniors from LB AAC @ Clementi 366 and Tampines 499C make a trip to ION Art Gallery for the opening of "Fun With My Story: My Neighbourhood".

A Piece of the Heartlands at Orchard

Over the weekend of 22 to 24 March 2024, visitors to the swanky ION Art Gallery located at the heart of Orchard Road were pleasantly greeted by a myriad of colourful prints embellishing the vast, white walls of the display space. Scenes depicting bustling hawker centres, festive dragon dances, tranquil parks, abstract building structures and more were portrayed in this photo exhibition titled “Fun With My Story: My Neighbourhood”.

Upon closer inspection, one would soon notice that this wasn’t a grandiose showcase spotlighting the works of any celebrated professional or creative heavyweight. Neither were any hefty camera gear or high-end lenses behind the making of each photograph. In fact, these were the very end-products of 20 seniors from LB AACs @ Clementi 366 and Tampines 499C, armed with little more than their regular mobile phones, as well as six weeks’ worth of mobile photography lessons under their belts!

These LB seniors’ youthful instructors – Damien, Jin and Nick – also co-founders of travel magazine start-up Depths Magazine, commenced the weekly classes at the two AACs out of a desire to equip seniors with the fundamentals to adeptly capture memories of their daily lives. At the end of each lesson, the students would be given an assignment to go out and about in their neighbourhoods to apply what they had learnt, and to submit their photos for review during the following class. It was something that no doubt required commitment, a willingness to put oneself out there and a genuine passion for photography to stay on course; and stay on course the seniors did. 

Damien, Nick and Jin (left to right) sought an exhibition space to showcase their students' works.

As the weeks went on, the three teachers were so deeply impressed by the seniors’ enthusiasm and the quality of their images, they knew they simply had to find a platform for their students so that their photos could be enjoyed by the masses, instead of being confined to their own mobile devices for good after the final lesson was completed. Thus began a painstaking search for a suitable exhibition space, and the trio’s efforts finally came to fruition when they secured ION Art Gallery for a weekend in March. 

When the senior shutterbugs streamed into the gallery on the opening day of “Fun With My Story, My Neighbourhood”, evident were the beams on their faces as they autographed and proudly posed with their own works, cheered on by their fellow seniors from the AACs who had come down to lend their support, making this entire journey from mobile photography novices to featured exhibitors thoroughly worth the while for both students and teachers.

We caught up with five of the seniors to find out more about their learning experience and takeaways from the mobile photography course, and here’s what they had to say!

Mr Goh Joon Chuan, LB AAC @ Clementi 366

“The lessons taught me how to adjust the camera lighting, even before taking the pictures. In the past, I had also never used the grid lines on my camera, but now I am able to take straighter photos with this function.

‘I was delighted when I saw my photos displayed at ION Art Gallery. I knew the teachers had selected my photos, but I didn’t realise that they were going to put them up at an exhibition!”

Senior Joon Chuan enjoys achieving symmetry in the photos of buildings and architecture that he takes.
JC Goh (1)
One of Senior Joon Chuan's photos selected for the exhibition was a low-angle shot of a residential block taken at Clementi Town Centre.

Mdm Tan Ai Kiok, LB AAC @ Tampines 499C

“Previously, I would take photos of interesting subjects and scenery around me with my phone, but I would not consider finding a good angle or getting the correct lighting, and the photos would also sometimes appear blurry or slanted to one side. After these lessons, the improvement shown in my photography is quite obvious.

‘For one of my photos that was selected for the exhibition, I made a deliberate attempt to get into a better position to take it. I would not have done such a thing in the past. Now, I look at my photo subjects from a renewed perspective.

‘I was really happy, but also a bit embarrassed for my photos to be on display! I never expected this was going to happen when I was taking the lessons, so I was shocked, but also feel very fortunate to have this exhibition specially done for us.”

Senior Ai Kiok posing with one of her selected photos that was taken at Blk 498D Tampines.
During a Chinese New Year celebration at LB AAC @ Tampines 499C, Senior Ai Kiok edged her way into a favourable position to capture this shot of spectators watching a lion dance performance.

Mdm Goh Wee Hong, LB AAC @ Clementi 366

“I wanted to learn more about mobile photography because I have always been very interested in it. One thing I picked up from the lessons was that I could capture my subject from various directions, and hold my phone in different positions as well.

‘The teachers were very patient with us, and we improved greatly under their guidance. A few of us even treated them to a meal to thank them. I would love to take further classes with them to learn even more in-depth lessons on photo-taking.

‘It’s an honour to be able to have our photos displayed at a place like Orchard Road for others to see. My brother had wanted to visit the exhibition, but it was a pity he missed it as he was overseas!”

Senior Wee Hong takes a close-up photo of her craftwork made during an art session at LB AAC @ Clementi 366.
Senior Wee Hong patiently waited for the heavy human traffic to go by this shop hoarding before snapping a sole passerby walking across, carefully ensuring that the person's face was only partially visible and could not be identified.

Mdm May Lua, LB AAC @ Tampines 499C

“The mobile photography course was easy to understand, and very practical. In just six lessons, we learned some basic photography techniques and theories, and put them into practice.

‘Since taking the course, my observation has become more subtle, looking at objects from a photographic perspective. When I see interesting things, compositions and beautiful scenery, I will take pictures and enjoy the fun.

‘The teachers are patient, show a lot of fervour, and go the extra mile to achieve their goals. Especially when you see them making enlarged print-outs of our photos and hanging each of them up for the exhibition, I know it took them a lot of time.”

Senior May with her exhibited photo of a colourful fitness corner taken near her Tampines flat.
Senior May's other selected photo captures the vibrant action and movement of a dragon dance.

Mdm Goh Siew Choo, LB AAC @ Clementi 366

“I took these mobile photography lessons in order to improve and upgrade my skills. The teachers gave us time to go out and express ourselves with our photos, and when we came back to class, they would share our photos with the rest and provide tips on how to take them even better, such as moving closer to the subject, or holding the phone horizontally instead of vertically. Something I picked up from the teachers was that our photos should have a theme and a focus.

‘A willingness to learn and put in the hard work is important. When I saw the other students returning with so many photos of what they had seen around them, I said to myself, Why did I not think of shooting those objects that they had captured to such great effect? So this led me to pay more attention to my surroundings, and not assume that there is nothing much around Clementi for me to photograph!”

Plants and flowers are Senior Siew Choo's favourite photo subjects.
When Senior Siew Choo shot this scenery, she used the word 'Spring' on the signboard as its theme, hence bringing focus to the lush greenery in the park.

Our seniors, by whole-heartedly embracing the classes in mobile photography and using their newfound techniques as a catalyst for creativity, connection and continued practice, have also in turn taught us wonderful lessons in lifelong learning, perseverance and a never-too-late approach towards skill acquisition!

We hope that these stories would inspire you to reach out and touch the lives of others.

If you would like to share your thoughts on these stories, please feel free to email us at cp@lb.org.sg

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