Capturing Life And Dynamism Of Buildings

CapitaLand's second run of the Building People Photography Competition draws over 300 participants from 11 countries to view buildings from a people perspective

Issue: Aug 2011

Ben Tan Teck Choon emerged the voters' choice in the CapitaLand-National Geographic Channel Building People 2011 Photography Competition
The sunset view from ION Sky by participant Ben Tan Teck Choon emerged the voters' choice in the CapitaLand-National Geographic Channel Building People 2011 Photography Competition

"A picture is worth a thousand words" goes the old adage and it is a saying that perfectly captures how 40-year old former engineer, Suhaimi Abdullah, feels about his photographs.

"I like photography as a medium because it captures that one split second wow moment in a still image which gives me something to remember. Every moment and every image is different and can never be re-created," Suhaimi enthused. "I try to create a fair and accurate representation of the story depicted in both content and tone through my pictures."

That was precisely what he tried to achieve with the photograph he submitted for this year's CapitaLand-National Geographic Channel Building People Photography Competition.

Suhaimi's entry
Suhaimi Abdullah's entry features ION Orchard in Singapore which he describes as "a building made for the people to get connected with the best in entertainment, shopping and food"

Buildings and People Through Different Eyes

Into its second year, the collaborative effort between CapitaLand and National Geographic Channel was launched on 1 April 2011. The competition called for photographs featuring CapitaLand buildings around the world and how these properties interact with people living, working or shopping in them.

"Our credo of 'Building People' identifies CapitaLand's purpose to improve people's lives and society through building good buildings. We believe a building is beyond just brick and mortar. Entering the second year of the photography competition, we look forward to more submissions this year that capture how people live, work and shop around CapitaLand's buildings," said Basskaran Nair, Senior Vice President of Corporate Marketing and Communications, CapitaLand Limited.

Photo forums from across Asia like ClubSNAP in Singapore, Photokaki in Malaysia and Photofans in China also jumped on the bandwagon to promote the competition. To help their members participate, they even organised property trails to CapitaLand properties in their respective countries to allow them to familiarise themselves with the buildings. In fact, it was through Photofans that China's Wang Dahe (王大禾) came to know about the competition. His photograph of Raffles City Beijing was among those selected for the public voting phase of the competition.

Wang's submission of Raffles City Beijing in China
Wang Dahe's submission of Raffles City Beijing in China offers a unique perspective of the bustling lobby of the shopping mall

Fakhrurrazi's photograph of Citadines Ramblas Barcelona
Fakhrurrazi's photograph of Citadines Ramblas Barcelona, Spain captures the vibrancy of La Rambla Street along which it is located

By the time the competition closed on 31 May, 1,265 entries from over 300 people in 11 countries had been received. This was more than twice the number from last year's inaugural competition. Entrants from countries like Australia and Indonesia, that had not had any entrants in the first year, took part this year.

One such Indonesian participant was 30-year old Fakhrurrazi who is working for the United Nations in Aceh Province. An architecture graduate from West Java, he developed an interest in photographing buildings while doing research for his studies. Interest quickly became passion.

"I started taking pictures everyday and discussing my work with my friends. I also learnt photography techniques through books and National Geographic magazines. It was the National Geographic magazines that shifted my interest from architecture photography to photographing people and streets," he recalled.

While on a trip in Europe, Fakhrurrazi remembered that there was this CapitaLand photography competition open for entries and went about looking for CapitaLand properties to shoot.

"Citadines Ramblas Barcelona is a narrow building located along a very vibrant street. By taking a picture of the waiter standing still while others were in a blur of motion, I wanted to convey dynamic emotion and portray the romantic side of European street life," explained Fakhrurrazi.

Rising to the Challenge of portraying the "Building People" theme

Photographing buildings and infusing each shot with life and character unique to the structure is no easy feat.

For contestant, Joseph Goh, it begins with finding the right part of a building to photograph.

"So many people walk through this entrance everyday so it is a very important structure of ION Orchard. The lines of the entrance lead and draw the crowd into the building. It's like a net that's being cast. With such a unique and interesting structure, I felt the beauty should not go to waste," said Goh.

But what made it difficult was attempting to engineer something he could not control.

"I had to make sure there were people in the shot because that adds life to the building. But the size of the crowd was important to avoid cluttering the shot," said Goh.

Suhaimi faced the same challenge of engineering spontaneity.

Joseph Goh's entry
Joseph Goh provides an unconventional view of ION Orchard, Singapore in his photo entry

"I dislike the idea of getting someone to pose in the pictures which is very cliché. So I spent about 10 to 15 minutes waiting for the right subject to come along. Fortunately, I saw a lady with a nice outfit and high heel shoes from a distance and waited for her to walk into the frame. Invoking motion or movement in a picture sometimes adds to creativity and dynamism in a picture. I already had this in mind when I set about composing my shot," said Suhaimi of his entry that has a low angle exterior shot of premiere retail destination in Singapore, ION Orchard, with a woman walking by in the foreground.

Judges understand the difficulties well. A panel comprising renowned National Geographic photographer Catherine Karnow, known famously for her extensive and impressive architecture portfolio; executives from National Geographic Channel and CapitaLand judged the entries and selected three winners based on aesthetics, originality and the extent that the theme "Building People" was captured, with special attention paid to the way the landscape and people were portrayed interacting with one another. The three winners will be announced on 5 August. An additional winner was selected from public votes solicited online from 7 to 21 July. 32 photographs were selected for the public voting contest.

"A well composed photograph, just like a well-designed building, has the ability to inspire and uplift people on an emotional level. Creative photography can bring out the essence and the humanity of great buildings and great photographs help us to better appreciate the human endeavour and creativity that great architecture can inspire in us all," said Karnow.

Catherine Karnow
Born and raised in Hong Kong, San Francisco-based photographer Catherine Karnow is known for her sensitive and emotional portraits of people from Australian Aborigines to royalty, politicians and victims of war

A Chance to Learn from the Expert

What piqued the interest of most participants was the fact that the participants would have the chance to attend a photography seminar with Karnow this month. The four winners will then go on an exclusive CapitaLand photography trail with her in Singapore to pick up more photography tips from her.

Seasoned photographer, 50-year old Wong Chek Poh, felt "the chance to meet and learn from a National Geographic photographer was too good to miss".

He has been hooked on photography since his first shot of a beautiful sunset taken while he was at his secondary school camp. His photograph juxtaposed the majesty of the skyscraper, Raffles City Singapore, with the humble work of the cleaner.

Catherine Karnow
Capturing one of Asia's tallest buildings, Raffles City Singapore, in its entirety meant that photographer, Wong Chek Poh, had to lie on the ground for a good 20 minutes

"Most contestants will probably include shoppers in the shopping centre. I happened to bump into this cleaner who was sweeping the ground outside the building and he was a nice gentleman who did not mind being photographed," said Wong.

"On the environmental front, I hope people will understand that there are people like this old uncle doing his part to keep our country clean. It should be our duty to consciously not litter to lessen the burden on the cleaning contingent and to treat all places like our home. The world will then be lovelier to live in," he added.

The top three winners of this year's competition will be announced on 5 August 2011. Over 120 selected photographs from the Building People 2011 Photography Competition will be on display at ION Station on level B4 in ION Orchard between 6 and 9 August 2011 from 10am to 10pm.

Read our September issue of INSIDE as we speak to Catherine Karnow on her photography experience.

User David Ng Soon Thong
218.186.10.X | 2011-08-11 23:53:24
Congratulations to Wong Chek Poh and Suhaimi on your achievement in this year challenge.
User Nelson
137.132.3.X | 2011-08-03 10:39:49
It's an excellent platform for all photographers to learn about the essence of photography.
User Ben
202.161.43.X | 2011-08-02 16:27:06
Congratulations on a successful competition. All winners are excellent
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