The author is the Publications & Communications Director of the NUS History Society (HISSOC). Being an Exco member, he is responsible for covering HISSOC events and happenings as a photographer. For more information, do follow HISSOC on Facebook and Instagram.
Photography seemed to be a thankless job. You are never part of the action; you are not the one who planned for these collision of events, nor the one who make things happen. You are a mere accessory to the event, hiding behind the camera in hopes of capturing fleeting moments of emotions and interactions that evaporates within seconds. There you are, running all over the place trying to resuscitate sublime minutes, hoping to catch a glimpse of hope within these short-lived pixels. Your finger may be on the button, hoping to capture the perfect incidence of light and shadows, but the law of refraction may bend against your favour. On the worst days, the environment may even render your megapixels fruitless; the sky is too dark, there are too many people in the background, not everyone is holding still, strangers are sprawling all over, no one is looking into the camera, and so on.
While you wish to capture the truth in the form of candid faces, your camera may spoil it all. The mere shine of one’s lenses distracts the audience and shatters the magical moment before the click. Some may gather for a photo, but others would steer away from the camera’s stare. You have to creep, slowly and steadily, and weave through crowds of people whom you don’t belong with, in hopes of finding that right moment and inking it into history. Sometimes, it is hard to be a stranger when the people around you are those you know so well, yet the camera sets a distance between the audience and you. While your daily presence renders smiles and familiar laughter, the camera scrapes away candid appearances and scares away those whom you think are worthy of a photo.
Do not fret. Not all is lost when you cower behind those lenses. For behind each camera is a person. And individuals have agency; the desire to express oneself, to show the world what he sees and how he feels, and to capture an eternity within pixels after pixels. We make history by cementing the drifting nature of time, rooting it down with each photo we take. And from these photos you feel what we feel: laughter upon candid faces, joy amongst smiles and comradeship in numbers. While events and planning may define the hour, a photo carry the weight of eternity when frames and frames of it gather to form a story. We set the narrative by the frame, expressing what we feel and extending the lifeline of these histories. And when we pick up our tool of trade and start snapping away, remember that for each snap lies a gravitas of capturing forever into a single photo. We save memories by the kilobyte, adding and stacking them all up until it collates a multidimensional timeline, perfect for throwback moments and nostalgic people. We define what the world see in each moment, as we try to save them with each photo.
Each second of loneliness behind the camera is compensated by an infinity of laughter and smiles etched on countless photographs. It is funny how photos are able to freeze time to that exact moment and capture so much in silence. And through these photos, you are never truly alone; you walk from one group of friends to another to have their photos taken, move through a group of strangers only to emerge from their photogenic smiles and meme-worthy faces as friends. When you are everywhere and anywhere, people would remember you eventually. Even if you are not part of something in motion, you are there to capture it all. These people would enjoy the memories that you record in hopes of reliving moments after moments. And the best of all? They will enjoy it with you. What’s left to remember of the good times is in photographs, especially when the weeks pass and the memories get foggier. Photographs refurnish empty spaces in the mind, placing objects of affection in familiar spots as it reproduces the exact memory over and over again. And with each throwback moment comes fresh perspectives and newer memories, painting the above mentioned photographs with even more value. The hours of clicking away our camera could compress immeasurable amounts of memory and emotions into static moments to be enjoyed forever.
I never expected myself to enjoy photography in university, let alone going around to cover events after events. But over the past year, I stumbled upon this group of energetic and passionate people and worked with them serving our community. In the midst of all the action and excitement, I picked up the camera and recorded our legacy. Thank you all for this eye-opening experience, where I learn more about the purpose of photography and why I enjoyed it.