By Sandra Yim Hui Min
Ngee Ann Polytechnic student Shintaro Tay is the youngest photographer to have his photos published in the book, Thank You, Mr Lee
An anxious crowd filled the corridors of the Singapore General Hospital on Mar 18, 2015 to gather updates on the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s medical condition. Amidst them was aspiring photojournalist Shintaro Tay, 19.
“I’m not the kind of person who will wait around for information to be passed down. I actually need to experience it and get a ground feel of the situation,” says the final-year Mass Communication student from the School of Film & Media Studies.
Like millions of Singaporeans everywhere, Shintaro was very much saddened by the news of Mr Lee’s passing.
“I value the importance of heritage and he forms a paramount part of our heritage and society. Once I knew that he had passed away I felt a great sense of loss,” he says.
Intending to capture the raw emotions of the public during the seven-day mourning period, Shintaro made several iconic pit stops around the island, such as the Istana and Tanjong Pagar Community Centre, where thousands went to pay tribute to Singapore’s founding father.
When Platform, an online community of Singapore-based photographers and creative visual makers, held an open call to compile pictures from the seven-day mourning period into a book, Shintaro seized the opportunity and sent in eight of his best works.
The Platform team filtered through more than 40 submissions and finally picked the works of 21 photographers.
Shintaro is the youngest photographer in the 96-page tribute compilation entitled Thank You, Mr Lee.
The pictures that Shintaro captured are mostly monochrome visuals depicting how different individuals expressed their sentiments during the mourning period through tears, hand-written cards and even prayers.
“It was such a monumental moment in history and I wanted to hold on to something tangible to honour him and keep it as a memory, especially since he played such a huge role in Singapore’s upbringing.”
For Shintaro, the highlight of the week-long mourning period was the final send-off, when the gun carriage passed by him. There was a mix of reactions – some were cheering him on, some were tearing up, and some just felt odd standing in his presence. As different as each individual might have felt, there was a strong sense of patriotism and unity as thousands stood their ground against the downpour.
With his camera on standby, Shintaro managed to capture an image of six people standing at attention as the carriage drove by them, with nothing but ponchos to protect them from the pouring rain. That very image was what caught the eye of Platform and was included in the tribute book.