Currently on show at the Objectifs Gallery, Days We Met is an exhibition by 5ive Foot Way collective of the streets of Singapore and abroad. These images are a window into their undeniable love for the photographic process. We speak to them the exhibition and about working as a collective.

Objectifs: Tell us about this exhibition. How did the idea for this exhibition come about?

5ive Foot Way (FFW): One of our goals as a collective is to exhibit work as much as we can, ideally once a year at least. Days We Met was actually planned right after our previous exhibition, Random Encounters which was held in Sep 2012. But because we needed to have coherent material, despite our disparate subject matter, and with Donna joining our ranks, we decided to take a bit more time to sieve through our work and put up a show that hangs well together. One of the things we do as a collective is to have regular meetings to do group edits and critique each other’s work, and over these sessions it became obvious that we are all exploring ourselves through our photographic expressions, and that general mood dictated our image selection for Days We Met.  

Objectifs: Who is the 5ive Foot Way collective? Tell us about what you do.

FFW: 5ive Foot Way is made up of five members: Adam Abdul Rahim, Aik Beng Chia, Callan Tham, Donna Chiu, and Tham Jing Wen. The collective was officially formed in April 2012, but the idea of working together with like-minded, and motivated, photographers is not a new one, and remains appealing. The difficulty is in finding fellow photographers who can commit time and effort, and to be able to collaborate despite our differences in opinion, subject matter, and methodologies. Most of our work is done individually, but we meet up regularly for group edits, to bounce ideas off one another, and to work on group projects together. We are also each other’s support group, because in the course of producing work, there is always self-doubt and the loss of clarity that comes with that, so having a supportive group environment can be constructive.   

Objectifs: Why do you choose to exhibit your works as a collective?

FFW: Working and exhibiting as a collective has several advantages. One, we have four other pairs of eyes, all honed in their own ways, to help with editing, and that generally improves the work being shown. Two, more hands make light work. And finally, there is always the challenge of presenting work that is rather different in the same show — celebrating the differences between each of us, while keeping the exhibition coherent, on a vaguely consistent visual narrative. That is a challenge that we enjoy, and helps us improve. 

Objectifs: Do you work collectively on a theme when you work on projects, or does the collective element only come out during the showcasing?

FFW: All of us work on personal projects, but the group helps with the editing. It always helps to have fresh, more objective eyes to scrutinise the work. We do work on group projects, and there is always a theme or narrative that we decide to cover as a group. We are working on a long-term group project, which we will announce when it is ready. We also work on publishing a short visual essay on our website (http://5ivefootway.com/) every month, titled Flavour of the Month. Every member is also working on a long- or medium-term project at the same time, so we keep ourselves busy as a collective and as individuals.

Objectifs: How did you choose the themes in each of your series, and how do they work together in this exhibition?

FFW: The individual themes are rather indicative of our aesthetics, and have been further refined since our previous exhibition. Adam’s choices were largely based on his experience living in Sydney, a sort of diary of his days away from home. Aik Beng’s work is a testament to his commitment to photographing the everyday, every day, in places we are only superficially familiar. Callan’s is all about challenging the perception of what a photograph should be, and his fascination towards the ordinary that is off-kilter, and he chose a visually consistent set of prints to show that. For Donna, her work shows her love and yearning for her parents. Jing Wen chose work that is surrealism trapped in a formalistic frame, and it’s quite clear who his photographic influences are.

Overall, the tagline “an exploration of self through experiencing life” ties all the different themes and subject matter together — we are, individually and collectively, projecting our own personalities into the frames we are showing. That also shows our firm belief that all photography is personal, and should be emotional for the photographer and the viewer.

Objectifs: How is this series different from what you usually do?

FFW: The work in Days We Met does not differ much from our usual work, but there are some refinements. Adam and Jing Wen used to work in purely black and white, and now they have colour work that are more representative of themselves. Donna has really put her emotions on show, and that is a brave and moving jump. Aik Beng has more still life shots than photos of humans, which is a departure from his usual style. Callan, who usually avoids shooting verticals, decided to use three vertical photographs to accentuate the visuals in his set of six. All these are deliberate decisions that make a subtle but clear progression from our previous work. 

Objectifs: What do you hope for people to get out of this exhibition?

FFW: We hope that our viewers can appreciate that photography isn’t just about pretty photos, but also about putting oneself, no matter how subtle, into the photos. That photography is and should be personal, and is not just a medium, but a way that life unfolds. If our viewers can come away from Days We Met with their own interpretations and narratives, we would be absolutely thrilled.  

Objectifs: Any plans for the works after this exhibition?

FFW: Believe it or not we are already casting one eye on our next exhibition! There are various ideas already being thrown about. Our long-term project will continue, along with the every day work that 5ive Foot Way posts, such as our Visual Diary and Flavour of the Month. We are also exploring other content, and we will announce that when we have details. We also plan to publish zines and books, but that’s still in the planning stages. All in all, we have rather ambitious plans for a very young group, and we will do our best to deliver. 

Days We Met runs from now till 24 Jan at the Objectifs Gallery. Open Mon – Fri 11am – 7pm, Sat 12pm – 6pm.

PS: 5ive Foot Way would like to express our humblest gratitude to Objectifs Centre for Photography and Film, and the great people there, as well as Chii Fei of Chiif Cameras Pte Ltd, for sponsoring our prints. Days We Met would not be possible without you.

Join the 5ive Foot Way collective in an artist talk on 18 Jan, Sat, 2pm at Objectifs Gallery. Open to public, free admission. Pre-register at info@objectifs.com.sg.