Sometimes, all it takes is a little change in perspective to appreciate your surroundings in a new way – to make the mundane almost magical. While I hate to sound materialistic, those changes in perspective usually come to me in the form of new camera equipment. I’ve been using my film camera quite a lot lately, as I was doing two Saturdays ago when I found myself wandering through Chinatown with a friend. After a quick lunch at a delicious and punny salad bar (called Well Dressed…cue pity-laugh), I wandered across the street to the Lomography store, hiding my Leica M6 in my purse on the way. The store is small, but FILLED with color, to the point where I can only compare it to a candy store for analog junkies. One wall was filled from floor to ceiling with photographs, while the opposite wall had cameras of every size and color, all of which looked cheerful and retro-chic. It wasn’t the first time I’d been in that store, but it was the first time I walked out with something. Enter La Sardina, my little lomo friend. Modeled after the shape and size of a can of sardines, this little fellow is a fixed-lens 35mm camera with only two focal lengths: “Bug Mode” for close-up shots and “Three’s Company” for shots taken a meter or more away. For the record, those nicknames are mine but the images on the lens that show your close-up or far-away focal length are those of a bug and three people, respectively. Indeed, it’s a far cry from my little Leica collection in size, quality, and basically everything else…but it sure is fun!
In any case, I promptly started shooting with my sardine cam as I walked back into Chinatown. I’m a little sad to say that I spent almost my entire first year in Singapore without ever really exploring this neighborhood. It’s touristy, yes, but full of color and decorations. Lanterns are hung year-round without regard to holidays, though there is an EXPLOSION of lanterns around Chinese New Year. The markets are in your face as soon as you step out from the MRT and you can find a variety of clothes, souvenirs, gift items, and quirky bits of decor for some of the lowest prices on this little island of inflation. I myself will be going back for dragon puppets as soon as I can think of a use for them.
I found this to be one of the easiest places to shop in Singapore, as it was much less crowded than most of the malls and the sales personnel are less pushy. Yes, it’s outdoors and hot, but right next to the markets is a stand with the best fresh coconuts I’ve had. Ever.
Just up the street from the open-air markets (and right next door to the Lomo store) is Ann Siang Hill, a colorful little street where you can find more upscale/boutique-style shops and some trendy bars and restaurants.
Sometimes, I’m surprised at how willing and ready I am to explore far-off places when I leave so many things undiscovered right in my own backyard. I’d like to thank my Cam of Sardines for getting me out of “bug mode.”