Our nation has turned 46 and this year’s celebration was extra special for me because I was enlisted as one of the official National Day Parade photographers! I got to go behind-the-scenes of the rehearsals and have access to restricted areas and vantage points that scores of photographers would salivate over. Totally exhilarating experience!
But in case you think this is oh-so-very-glam… to be allowed onto the parade grounds, get onto the roof of Marina Bay Sands, and being let in to the Marina Promontory while the crowds were held back, turning green while glaring at us… it’s really not. Imagine lugging around 5kg of camera equipments from 12 – 9pm every Saturday for 3 months. My collection of cam gear is modest. The masters weigh on themselves much, much more with 2 or 3 camera bodies and lens the size of bazookas.
The afternoons were hot as hell and we had to walk a lot, climb up and down, sometimes run, while keeping an eye out for things to shoot. I so pity the persons sitting next to me on the bus home at the end of each shoot. Yet, my ‘hardships’ were nothing compared to all the performers, marshals, motivators and crew who made this NDP work.
3 Months of Hard Work
Now, all the 30 of us appointed NDP photogs have an agreement with the organising committee that we will not post any of the photos taken on Facebook, albums or anywhere else online. The photos were exclusively used for NDP publications and official website until the release of the NDP 2011 coffee table book later on. After that, we can post our photos online. But I asked for permission and have been graciously allowed to share these shots with you on this blog!
They are very simple shots, probably the worst amongst all the photogs, but I hope you can see The Singapore Spirit as I saw in them…
The photogs were engage to follow the rehearsals 3 months prior to the actual show on 9 August but I believe choreography work, planning, and training started way before. Before this NDP ended, the committee for next year’s parade has already been formed and brainstorming for ideas! I have the good fortune of being asked to shoot again next year. Woohoo! Another great opportunity to learn!
Portrait of a Nation
The NDP is a celebration by Singaporeans for Singaporeans. And non-Singaporeans. Foreign talents have been a hotly debated issue during the recent General Election. Personally, I welcome foreign talents be it the brains that Singapore is still ‘catching up’ to or those who are doing what we don’t want to do. Singapore started and prospered as a colony of migrants to begin with. If the current incoming FTs are threatening our way of life, is it because our identity isn’t strong enough to
convert assimilate them in the first place?
It’s not an easy issue. We are a very small country with no natural resources. To sustain growth and the current way of life for Singaporeans, we need to build critical mass internally for consumption leads to spending, leads to incoming investments, leads to sustained growth against an increasingly homogenous global economic backdrop. And Singaporeans are not producing more Singaporeans. The low birth rates have been the side effect of high cost of living and the need to spend more time to earn the dough rather than knead it.
So what now?
I’m not running for presidency so I’ll leave the intelligent questions to the smart people. All I think I know is this… we import water and a lot of stuff because we don’t produce them. It seems like people are our latest imports. It’s no longer about protecting our Singaporean identity, but how to extend it to our new members. We need to be united for the good of all.
But one thing that’s not good, is mishappened plagiarism! During the rehearsals, I heard the doctored Bad Romance by Lady Gaga. I thought to myself, “No, no, no, no, no.” It’s filled with so much cheese, the Piped Piper of Hamelin could just overfed the mice to kill them instead of using his flute. A popular song with a strong fan base won’t survive being dumbed down like that.
I actually took a video of the Fun Pack Song during rehearsal because of its absurdity but deleted it as I thought there’s no need for me to keep since I cannot post. Thank goodness that doctored song didn’t go on. Even if full rights were obtained.
But it was a good effort in trying to inject popular culture and be HIP-hop. Hopefully, future attempts won’t flop. HIP = Honour Intellectual Property.
Whatever the hits and misses, being there at so many rehearsals and the main show, I can really feel the sense of pride Singaporeans have for our tiny red dot. It gave me many goosebumps moments!
I always think, “Who would want to watch NDP live? The long wait to the start of the show, it’s hot and sweaty and packed with people. Such a hassle. So much trouble.” But I was so wrong. When I posted on Facebook that I’m a photographer for NDP 2011, I got a slew of messages from friends asking me for tickets.
Having attended my ‘first’ NDP in a long time, I can understand why people want to watch it ‘live’. The feeling of being in unison with fellow citizens regardless of race, language or religion is just awesome!
A 5-Act Musical
This year’s NDP took a fresh new approach in the form of presenting the show as a musical that traces the life and times of a Singaporean family through different eras. The show was a star-studded spectacle led by Sharon Au and Timothy Nga. Hosts for the event were Gurmit Singh, Suhaimi Yusof, Denise Keller and Berlinda Lee.
Fireworks from 3 Vantage Points
The show started at 6pm sharp and ended with a pyro-musical at about 8:05pm. Fireworks were released during the 3 combined rehearsals and 3 National Education (for primary and secondary school kids) rehearsals but they were scaled down with the full force unleashed on the actual day.
I am very, very privileged to see the fireworks at three different locations and here are the shots…
Majulah! The Singapore Spirit
After months of intensive shooting for NDP 2011, I’ve learnt a lot. A big thanks to the many veteran photogs (some of them who have continuously done this ‘national service’ for 10 years) for teaching me so much and sharing with me tips on how they shoot the different show elements. My appreciation too for the Publications team for taking good care of us.
The theme this year is Majulah! The Singapore Spirit (“Majulah” is Malay for “Onward”). It seems the over-riding spirit now one of complain. But to me, nowhere in this world is perfect. So while we have our grouses, let us not forget to count our blessings and continue to strive forth in these times of volatile earth and global economy.