I have always been in awe of beautiful pictures. For a long time, I wished for an opportunity to attend a photography workshop that would equip me with the skills to capture precious moments. However, the workshops available in the marketplace were beyond my means.
Last December, I received a message from HOME’s Academy Director, Sisi, to send out an invitation to fellow domestic workers for a photography workshop organized by Holdinghands Studio for free. Thank God for answering my prayers!
Holdinghands Studio is a social enterprise set up in August last year, in the hope of using photography to equip under-resourced communities. It sought camera donations from individuals and lent these units to migrant workers for free. Holdinghands Studio is also the first social enterprise providing a full suite of photography activities and services i.e. skill-building classes, free camera use, opportunities to practice at real-life events while guided by seasoned photographers. The social enterprise believes that through these activities, a photography enthusiast can grow his or her skill set, which will be useful if they wish to pursue photography as a professional career when they return to their country of origin.
HOME, in collaboration with Holdinghands Studio, held its first in-person photography workshop in December last year. Tan Chin Hock, founder of the social enterprise, was the instructor. Together with his teammate, Benjamin, they conducted a fruitful workshop where the participants learned and laughed a lot. The easy-going personalities of the facilitators made the session an enjoyable one. There were clear learning objectives and we had a lot of room to ask questions. We even won prizes for participating in a quiz.
At the beginning of 2022, Holdinghands Studio even sponsored Genelyn, one of the migrant photographers in the photography club, to participate in an international photography award.
Last month, Holdinghands Studio organized a workshop on studio photography for domestic workers. Lanie, a participant, said that she learned about the difference between artificial and natural light, and how lighting affects the mood in photography. Lora Jane, another one of the participants, commented, “It was fun and engaging… It is evident that this kind of creative class brings people together. I encourage other migrant workers to join future sessions as it is worth a try.” Domestic worker Sunarmi added, “Thank you, Holdinghands Studio. I enjoyed learning something new with other migrant workers.”
Since its partnership with HOME, the workshops have received positive responses from the community. Chin Hock then decided to form the Migrant Workers Creative Centre (MWCC) Telegram chat group so that more migrant workers could receive announcements, share their photographs and receive feedback. The membership has ballooned to more than 70 members as of July 2022.
Why did Chin Hock reach out to HOME? “It all started with the belief that everyone can take pictures with a wow factor,” he said. His life had changed due to his passion for photography and he wanted to share it with under-resourced communities such as migrant workers. He added that everyone should have an opportunity to hold a camera and learn how to take pictures. From past experiences, he learned that working with agencies will help the social enterprise reach more people. That was why he knocked on HOME’s door offering free photography services. “It is one of my best decisions. We have come so far now.”
A monthly photo contest was also organized by Holdinghands Studio as an outlet for members to express their creativity. The prizes are sponsored by HOME and the administration is led by a team of enthusiastic migrant workers.
Witnessing the improvement of the quality of pictures taken by the migrant workers, Chin Hock decided to select a few photos to print on coasters to raise funds for HOME and FAST. The first batch of coasters features photographs taken by domestic workers, namely Kate, Jumaiti, Yunis, Alma and Agnes Tono. There are only 2,000 sets printed.
Each set of five coasters is selling for $20, and 20 percent of the proceeds will go to HOME and FAST. They can be purchased here. The coasters are as practical as they are beautiful and inspirational. They are waterproof and do not stick to the bottom of your cup when you lift it; they stay put on your table to protect it from drips and cup rings. It is a good gift for your loved ones.
Lastly, we would like to congratulate Agnes, one of the photographers in the group, for having her photo featured at the 17th Ngee Ann Photographic Exhibition 2022. It is one of the largest photographic exhibitions in Singapore. With Chin Hock‘s encouragement and support, Agnes submitted her entry on the last day of submission. Her photo was later showcased alongside the works of professional photographers.
Thank you, Holdinghands Studio and Chin Hock for empowering migrant workers in Singapore. Through your support, we are able to fulfil some of our wishes in life!
Jo Ann A. Dumlao
MyVoice Contributing Writer
*The featured image is a photograph taken by a domestic worker who attended a photo walk organized by Holdinghands Studio.