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BBQ Pit, 2006, c-print, from the photographic series 'Paradise' 2006 - 2012

Chua Chye Teck

Whilst returning to an area I used to spend time in as a teenager, it took me a moment to recollect my memory of the place as it had changed drastically. Punggol used to be a well-developed rural district in Singapore, where poultry, animal, fish and vegetable farming thrived. Now it has been taken over by property businesses and is being developed into a town similar to the stereotypical Western “Satellite Town.”
The place was cleared and left empty for a while before development started. More land was claimed, beaches were lost, and you can no longer swim across the narrow channels of sea to Coney Island (Pulau Serangoon), or to untouched forests for exploration. The land has been entirely cleared and is waiting for further development. This is a common experience that people have when revisiting a place in Singapore. It is a country where constant change to the urban landscape takes place. Where the old is seldom valued or retained unless it makes monetary sense. The state’s ultimate control of land and its sale is the reason why property remains one of the most important factors contributing to the country’s wealth. With the help of foreign workers, changes are made quickly by our government and places change drastically over short spans of time.
During a visit to Punggol in 2006, I discovered the presence of small makeshift shelters, each structure marked by individuality and temporal existence, which I have been photographing since. These shelters do not belong to the homeless. They are made by people who spend time in the area; from fishing hobbyists, to natural wanderers exploring the un-beaten track, and those seeking a moment of quiet reflection with nature. The shelters not only offer them shade from the sun, but also a refuge in which to enjoy some time away from crowds and the concrete jungle. Over time I believe these structures will gradually disappear from our cultural and geographical landscape that is led by the pursuit of uniformity, urbanization and commercialization. Paradise pays tribute to these last remaining structures of individualism. It is a glimpse of quiet moments in a passing space of time.