In-between Places: a search for sanctuary

Rainbow over Amihari, Japan 2018

I turned my hand towards landscape photography shortly after transformative experiences of wild places in a foreign country. Singapore itself certainly has no places that can be considered wilderness by any stretch of the imagination. The entire country is an island city-state, and the only one in the world at that. I was raised without being shown that there is any value at all in wilderness, though the wildlife documentaries I would occasionally come across kindled a raw, primal awe that most can relate to. Although I first became curious about photography when I was 14, it was only with the discovery of a profound and fierce love for wild places did I find the meaning to embark on this lifelong pursuit.

Diminutive and the second most densely populated on earth, I had my work cut out for me when I chose to dive down this path in Singapore. Early attempts made it readily apparent that aspiring for the grand, iconic scenery typical of other landscape photographers’ work I’ve come to admire would be utterly impossible to attain over here. This, in turn, taught me to see the humble beauty found within seemingly unremarkable landscapes, revealed only briefly during remarkable conditions when a rare confluence of sensual light and personal feeling allows a worthy photograph to be made. Indeed, such photographs are never “taken” but rather made with great care, and such experiences are always far more rewarding than having merely a photograph.

People often talk about the spirit of the place but that exists only as an idea within the perception of one’s mind. The places I have explored and photographed in Singapore are now so different they would be unrecognisable by my photographs of them. Although it has become impossibly difficult to make more pictures that I care about in my home country, I am grateful for the lessons that these in-between places have taught me. I carry them with me when I make my excursions to in-between places in other parts of the world, always in search of sanctuary.

Samuel Chia
19 June 2019

Photographer portrait by David Lim, Singapore 2009