Shooting Singapore Street Composites
Singapore is such a multifaceted place that you can’t help but see and feel the diverse energy of the crowd as you move from one place to another. From the central business district’s suits and high heels, to the shopping centre’s young fashionistas and clueless tourists, to the heartland’s homey aunties and uncles. This is the subject of my recent project: capturing a bit of how it feels like to be in one place.. but instead of taking photographs, I decided to take a stab at creating composites.
Composites are digital images made of multiple photographs taken from the same spot. These photographs are then combined using photoshop, and with a little extra care, these shots can stitched together seamlessly to look like one single photograph. I’ve seen this done before with great effect, and I’ve always wanted to see what I could come up with. As an example, one of my composites was taken in the central business district, early in the morning as people are rushing off to work. Women in high heels in that area stood out for me, so from around 140 shots, I selected 8 photographs and combined them into the final image shown in the last frame below:
I planned this as a quick 4-week project where I visited different spots in Singapore that I was familiar with, places that I pass by relatively frequently enough for me to be comfortable with, namely: Raffles Place, Shenton Way, Orchard Road, Chinatown, Haji Lane, Boat Quay, and Toa Payoh. In each place, I set up my camera & tripod right in the middle of the street, then stand a few feet away with my remote trigger, clicking away for about 30 minutes to an hour.
By end of the day, I review all photographs and select which people will appear on the image. One limitation I set to myself is to not move the people around the frame – each person in the final image is in the exact same position they were in the original photographs. Creating the composites was not as easy as I thought… there was a lot of trial and error and iterations. In fact, one composite usually takes around a full day, and most composites ended up being scrapped as I couldn’t come up with anything interesting with them.
But in the end, I was able to create 14 composites I was happy with. Now to be clear, these are not street photographs… strictly speaking, they’re not even photographs. These are digital images created to simulate how I see and feel the energy of the crowd in each place. Video would do a good job with this, so would a set of photographs over a period of time. But to create just one frame to represent each place, I figured composites would be an interesting medium to try.