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Self-Cultivation through Photography

Self-Cultivation through Photography

Li Shing Yan, Sean and Cheng Sin Yu, Grace's Story
Faculty of Engineering
BEng (CE)

Remember the time when you took a small respite from the hectic life as a university student?  One may find strength from friends, family or other support systems close to the heart.  Yet we may not have discovered our inner asset of resilience through adversities.  Organized by Counselling and Person Enrichment Section (CoPE) of the Centre of Development and Resources for Students (CEDARS), the “Very You Photography Workshop” led by photographer Ann Choi helped students to harness in-depth understanding and honest self-appraisal.  

Sean Li and Grace Cheng relayed their experiences and feelings after joining the workshop.  At first, curiosity arose out of their minds as the concept of “Very You” seemed foreign yet exciting.  They also entertained the idea of improving their photography skills.  In their opinion, photography itself adds a burst of colour to the society.  Sean believes that Ann’s artistry counterbalances the so-called monotonous realism of our world today. This greatly contrasts their previous attitudes towards photography, where snapshots of daily life were taken without a purpose.

They learnt that experimentation was valuable only if there is consciousness behind each image.  As mentioned by Sean, the expendable trend of modern technology made it easier to preserve moments.  However, many will render deep into the black hole of digital storage.  How many of you will deliberately flip through images in your hard disk one by one, if not to choose a profile picture or throwback post for social media?

Hence it became an illuminating experience for Sean and Grace as they took turns being both the subject and the photographer. The medium of photography provides a realization applicable to many things in life, requiring dual-way communication and insight to put oneself in someone else’s shoes.  

Thus, creative synergy was produced through the sharing of ideas and the reversal of roles.

“As long as you’re living in the moment, the range of emotions you can reflect on your facial expressions can be rich and contrasting."

Most of all, getting in touch with emotions is one of the biggest takeaways of the workshop for Grace. Through the portrait taking session by Ann, she recognized the importance of presenting one’s authentic self to others, including the camera.  “As long as you’re living in the moment, the range of emotions you can reflect on your facial expressions can be rich and contrasting. This theory led me to believe that I can release my inner emotions, from pure joy to extreme sadness,” said Grace.

On the other hand, Sean recognized the usefulness of the Five W’s and One H approach that Ann provided as stimuli (Who, What, When, Where, Why and How).  In practice, he bucked the trend without using a set of rules to govern what his photographic output should look like. As answered by Sean, “It is harder than it seems to apply these simple guidelines in real life, since we are so used to going with the flow.”

In his reflection, Ann guided the participants through the basics and then set them free to explore the world of photography.  Participants may smash the rules into smithereens during the process of mastering this art form.  After all, can we agree to disagree that rules are meant to be broken or adjusted as one lives his / her life in his / her own way?

Written by:
Teresa Chung
Year 2, Faculty of Social Sciences
March 2019

Self-Cultivation through Photography