Over the years, I have travelled to numerous parts of the world either on photography assignments or leisure. These are some of the captures of landscapes during my trips to places like Sri Lanka, China, Japan, Taiwan, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom and United States.
The women living in the rural areas of Laos are often the most disadvantaged. Men are usually heads of the households, representing their families at official meetings. Many women are illiterate and do not speak the national language used for education.
Under the Constitution of Laos, Lao women are legally equal to Lao men. They have the right to vote and to inherit property. However, in practice, the roles and status of women in Lao society often depend on ethnic affiliation.
Many rural Lao women undertake a variety of semi-formal roles in their communities, including handicrafts, commerce, public health, and education, in addition to their traditional roles as homemakers and the caretakers of children. In the cities and at the government level, Lao women are still under-represented, particularly in high-level positions. In terms of wages, women typically receive lower salaries than men.
With these understanding of Laotian women, look beyond the smiles and friendly demeanor of these women. They display strength and tenacity despite the challenges they face in their society. Their appearances may be fragile and vulnerable; but their wills are strong.
People from different backgrounds and cultures all over the world fascinate me. Hence during my travels, I would photograph them in their natural environment, engaged in their own activities.
Singapore, 15 Mar 2014. In the span of the last four months, there had been several men who appear to be migrant workers loitering near my home area between 10pm to 1am. They sit or stand by the roadside, appearing to be busy on their mobile devices or ipads. These caught the attention of my neighbours and I.
There have been cases of trespassing in the last month. My neighbour told me he has seen dark shadows in his gardens, suggesting someone has climbed into his compound. The police was alerted but nothing was done.
Hence, I decided to monitor the situation by taking stealth images of these migrant workers. These images were shot without their knowledge. They would spend hours on their mobile devices. Are they tracking the movements of the residents in theneighbourhood? Are they sending information to someone else via the mobile devices?
One fine night, there was a migrant worker sitting by the kerb using his mobile device. I rang my neighbour and we decided to enquire why he was there in the wee hours. Upon confronting him, he apologized profusely and claimed that he was “stealing” wifi. He claimed he was sending pictures to his wife. We were stumped by what he said. Were we wrong to accuse him? I felt bad that we assumed he was there to commit crimes. However, having said that, we could not differentiate who were there to use wifi or to break into our homes.
After hearing his sad tale of having to “steal” wifi in order to communicate with his loved ones, I decided to embark on a project feature these migrant workers as real people.
I chatted up with some migrant workers and learnt that they were all in their twenties. They have left their homes in India and Bangladesh behind to come all the way here in Singapore to earn a good honest living so they can send the money back.
I photographed them close-up to show their amiably facial features. A handful of Singaporeans do not treat these migrant workers with due respect and dignity. Some of them do not even look at them in the eye or acknowledge their presence in public spaces. Hence, this project is allowing people to have a close look at them and discover that they are just regular folks who are here to make ends meet.
All Singaporeans were sons and grandsons of immigrants. So let us not discriminate against the migrant workers who are here just like how our forefathers did.