Going on a Walkabout Part 3 – Katong

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Katong is one of the oldest areas of Singapore. I spent a large part of my childhood here as ironically did my father. It is still today one of the last areas in Singapore where you can see a mix of old Colonial and Peranakan architecture alongside some new buildings. Katong like the rest of eastern part of Singapore holds a lot of charm and nostalgia for many people like myself. Part of it is the food, part of it are the old shophouses and buildings, but a large part of it is also the fact that the entire area is filled up with relatively low-lying buildings and houses. There are no tall skyscrapers or HDB blocks. In fact very few building go beyond 4 – 6 stories high. This may be pretty normal for most countries, but it is very unique for land-starved Singapore. It is made even more valuable and precious given the fact that Katong is still located very centrally to the main “town and CBD areas” – not further than 10 minutes away by public transport. This really makes the Katong area a choice spot among more and more foreigners and yet it has still has managed to retain much of it’s local charm, maintaining a delicate balance between new and old, local and foreign. In Katong you will see new boutique hotels and condominiums, old eateries selling Roti Prata and Laksa, refurbished Peranakan Hotels and other wonderful monuments like the Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple.

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I took the opportunity of taking a short photo walk down several streets of Katong this November to try and document some of scenes. I had the opportunity to make some new friends when the owner of “24-hours Non-Stop Prata” seemed intrigued by what I was doing with my SX-70 and I of course took the opportunity to take photo of him and his buddy and give it to him. “Would you like a teh? (which is slang for tea with condensed milk)” he asked and I promised to return after I was done.
The PX 70 Color Protection film is a reliable film to use but I’m still getting to grips with it. Some shots give me the vivid colors like I planned for (like the shot of the bicycle in front of the Peranakan House) while others remain a little washed out (almost like Cool Film; like the one I took of the shophouse roof against the bright blue sky). One photo of a bright green wall along the side of the bungalow houses turned out blue instead! Still these aren’t complaints. Just part of the process and charm of photographing an old place with an old method of photography.

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Looking back at my shots, I am happy with a few of them but I don’t think I’ve taken nearly enough. That’s always the challenge with photography and instant photography in particular (which is so expensive). The challenge of whether every shot should be a more “generic”, “establishing” image – which tends to be better to tell a story with or set a context around; or whether the shot should be more “unique” giving me more personal satisfaction but taking out a lot of the context and color from the overall storyline.
Still this was a nice instant photography walk and a long overdue one. There’s so much more to the east side of Singapore and I have definitely not done justice to it here. I hope the next walk isn’t too far away.
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