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We Were Farmers

We Were Farmers

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We Were Farmers
by Ore Huiying

My family have been farmers for generations, from the 1960s till 2020. “We Were Farmers” is a personal project documenting their experience and resilience through photography for the past 12 years. It is also a commentary on changing agricultural practices and urban development in Singapore As I photographed my family, I contemplated my sensibilities as a documentary photographer and my role as a member of the family. I reflected on my position as a participant-observer in the context of this project, and questioned the idea of objectivity in my work. My family became more than just a subject. They are a medium through which I investigate identity and relationships — theirs, and also mine.

“We Were Farmers” also explores how families are shaped and altered by economic and political forces. I examine why family-run businesses and multi-generation households, once common in Singapore, are failing now. This 12-year project has culminated in this photobook, comprising of photographs I shot, archival photos from my family albums, a timeline of related events and an afterword by visual sociologist Terence Heng. Photo edited by Zhuang Wubin, the book depicts the hopes, dreams and memories that tie my family and me together. It is a poignant reflection of where my understanding of community and tradition, and sense of self come from.

Ore Huiying is a documentary photographer from Singapore. Having been uprooted from a rural to an urban environment as the country underwent development, she is drawn to narratives of people and places affected by development in Southeast Asia.

Ore completed her Masters of Arts in Photojournalism & Documentary Photography at the London College of Communication in United Kingdom in 2010. She has held solo exhibitions at Objectifs, Icat gallery in Laos, and at the Angkor Photo Festival in Cambodia, and has participated in numerous group shows.

Ore’s accolades include a nomination for ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu (2013), the Documentary Award in the Invisible Photographer Asia Awards (2018), recognition by the World Press Photo 6×6 Global Talent Program (2018), and a National Geographic Grant (2019) to continue her work examining the impact of Chinese-built dams on the Mekong River.

Apart from working on personal projects, Ore does commissioned work for international publications like The New York Times, Washington Post, Bloomberg, Le Monde and Getty Images, as well as for NGOs and commercial clients.

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