Spending two years of my time studying in the UK has been an amazing journey. Not only have I had the opportunity to explore many new places, but have also experienced new cultures and made many new friends. In this series contains the various places I have visited within the UK which have now become a part of my memories. The intention of curating this series is not about seeking out touristy locations in the effort to put my own artistic spin on the area, but more as a means to record my personal experience of visiting these places as to how I would remember them. The significance of it is that I would not have the chance to revisit those places again after returning back to Singapore.
I have not really explored the UK landscape extensively throughout my two years stay because half the time was spent working on my photography assignments and based in Norwich most of the time. Sometimes I would take a breather from my stressful schedule and head out for a walk outside my home or travel out of the city to nearby places with friends. It is only through such opportunities that I was able to capture landscapes scenes that were outside my assignment works.
At first, I didn’t know how to group them as all the images seem to be in different approaches and all over the place. I feel that every image captured are visually strong as an individual as I have tried to build every image its own narrative. Sometimes I would be influenced by images that motivated me to edit them in a certain mood, sometimes I would capture these scenes street photography-style with no particular concept in mind, pretty much like Henri-Cartier Bresson.
This series of 36 images arranged more according to places I have been to, but by no means in chronological order.
Norwich is the city I was based in during my time in the UK. There are many parts of the city I have explored over the four seasons and I have come to fall in love with the largely quiet environment away from the city centre. This was the place I have also made my photography works with my housemates and photography peers, many of which I have had fond memories of.
The “Bag Lady” of Norwich, in contrast with the largest cathedral in Norfolk. This was one of the first few images taken during my first walkabout exploring the city.
Eaton Park during the early winter months, a quiet environment away from bustling city centre and the lovely landscape as the seasons change. A dad and his teenage child exit out of the colonnade pavilion and I saw the symmetricity of the building structure against the barren trees was yet another photo opportunity.
A distinctive view of the city centre from the Norwich Castle one autumn evening while searching for vantage points. It has been a rainy week, yet I was able to see glowing rays of light piercing through as the cloud break. The Norwich City Town Council is where the clock tower stands.
A cherry tree blossoms at the arrival of spring, taken outside my neighbourhood. Spring is my busiest period and I hardly have the time to properly look at these spring flowers. Yet when I do get the time, I appreciate the fact that it was my first time seeing them up close.
Throughout my entire stay in the UK, I have lived near the second largest Roman Catholic cathedral in England. As it was a huge landmark, it was pretty easy navigating my way back home from the city centre even late at night. Every day I get to see different facets of its stunning exterior as the lighting conditions differ almost throughout all four seasons. Yet not once have I entered its premise. This was the first image of the cathedral I had captured but didn’t publish. The view of the cathedral building has etched onto my memory so much that I wanted to capture the building in my ideal light condition before my departure. I wanted to revisit the shoot again but later realised I hardly found the time to revisit due to my hectic schedule, even though I still pass by everyday…
A view of the Wensum river flowing through the city centre one evening after the rain had subsided. A warm glow appeared as the sun sets behind the clouds, creating a beautiful palette of colours of the scene. This was one of the rare moments I felt I was at the right place at the right time.
When time allows, I would often climb up Mousehold Heath with my camera to capture the amazing view of the city; sometimes on bright sunny days, sometimes on wet rainy days with high winds, other times on cold freezing winter days. St James’ hill is arguably the highest vantage point I could find in Norwich. It is a popular viewpoint on bonfire night or whenever there are fireworks exhibitions from the centre of Norwich. In this image, I found an old couple, photography enthusiasts, capturing the magnificent sunset. I was there too.
December is the time when shopping streets would be decorated with mesmerizing Christmas lights and displays. This is a corner of a shopping street in the city centre I would pass by almost every day. This was an attempt at capturing a scene of the festive mood during the blue hour. Notice that there were two Christmas trees on two levels of the building, one in a lighted room, and the other in a dark room.
On Guy Fawkes night, also known as the bonfire night is an annual commemoration often celebrate at large organised events with extravagant firework displays. I went up the St James’ hill to capture the fireworks. I originally wanted to capture those fireworks in contrast with the crowd in the foreground, but unfortunately, I could not manoeuvre in time as the spot become rather crowded and the fireworks ended much quicker than I expected. Following the aftermath of the fireworks display, most people would have descended back to the city. I decided to turn my camera around to look for interesting results if any.
Winter months are usually warm and mild in Norwich as snowing is a rare occurrence. When it does, many folks would have gone berserk at the sight of it. Yet one early morning was the heaviest snowfall I had seen. Having not seen any proper snowfall in my life, I was absolutely excited about it. Treading on snow in my boots for my first time was an amazing experience. Except that day was also the deadline of my assignments and I had not slept the night before, so I had not been able to properly document the wintery wonderland. However, I managed to snag one image of the snow at one of the campuses of Norwich University of the Arts, after my submission.
Great Yarmouth is a coastal town in Norfolk. I’m glad to have the opportunity to visit the small town on a couple of occasions because I have had some friends living there. This was taken on my first visit to the town centre during my summer break, a wide, pedestrianised avenue leading all the way from the town centre to the seafront. Despite many negative opinions for a non-local to visit that region, I found that exploring the main street to be a rather pleasant experience.
An old couple resting on a bench in front of a local candy shop.
Strolling along the marine parade, exploring the sights while waiting for my friend to turn up. A scene of a takeaway food stall along the promenade near the pier.
Cromer and Sheringham are yet another coastal towns in Norfolk which I had visited, particularly for its Norfolk coastal path with a group of international friends. I have enjoyed the hiking experience as well as the fresh fish and chips from the local restaurants. Yet I remembered my first visit there was due to a project collaboration work that enabled me to visit places outside Norwich city for the first time since my arrival.
A scene in Sheringham, where the start of our hiking towards Cromer begins.
The promenade in Sheringham, during my first visit to the coastal town for project work. It was a windy and cloudy day.
Rocks and rails along Sheringham beach during the summer time
Hiking towards Cromer from Sheringham, the first challenge was to climb up what the locals call the Beeston Bump. It was a picturesque walk along the cliffs, especially on a bright and sunny day.
Strong light and shadows casting over the coast, adding vibrant colours to the cliffs and landscape. Things like this make me excited about exploring places through the tourist’s eyes.
Cambridge is about 1.5 drive from Norwich and I have only been to Cambridge twice. The first time was for the punting tour during the summer break, and the second time I explored one of the university campus grounds over the Easter break. Yet twice is not enough to warrant a total familiarity of the university city, as there were much more parts of the city I had not explored. Nevertheless, I had thoroughly enjoyed the experiences on both trips.
The Corpus Christi College is one of my favourite part of the university campus to photograph, as stripes of green lawn are particularly striking against the blue sky. It is also perhaps one of the more iconic spots in Cambridge photographed by visitors.
Marketplace in the city centre of Cambridge, taken from a high vantage point. I loved this vantage point as it shows a section of the city in an overview.
An evening light hits part of the Corpus Christi College, framed by the entrance hall. It reminded me of the iconic Taj Mahal as framed by its entrance gate.
A scene of a punting tour along the River Cam, a popular activity in Cambridge especially during the summertime.
The only reason I had been to Nottingham was due to a visitation to an art exhibition at the Nottingham Contemporary gallery during the Christmas period with a group of international friends. It was a great opportunity as not only I toured the exhibition but also had been able to explore the Christmas market at the city centre.
Outskirts of Nottingham town, on a train ride. A new neighbourhood is under construction.
Crossing the road outside the Nottingham train station and towards the city centre.
A scene of the Christmas market at daytime, taken from a vantage point. It was my first time visiting a Christmas market as I have never seen a similar market in Norwich. Looking at the crowd, I could not imagine just how much people would have visited the Nottingham Christmas market.
It gets a lot livelier as night falls. The insane crowd meant it was harder to get around and I had to choose my vantage point beforehand. The night activity here is definitely a lot different from that of Norwich during the festive period.
I never got to fully explore Manchester city as I was only in the area for a day with my travel buddy after our Scotland leg. He was there for personal matters while I spent the entire day touring the Manchester United stadium. The funny thing about this experience was that I was too naive to think I could walk all the way to Old Trafford from Victoria Station and back, assuming that the distance would be similar to Norwich. I was dead wrong, and I found it the hard way. Half the day was spent under the hot sun figuring my way around and then went on the stadium tour.
This image was taken at the Old Trafford station while on my way back to the city centre via the metro tube as I became hardpressed for time to catch a train back to Norwich that evening. It was a good weather and I loved the view of the cityscape from the station platform. In the end, it only took me a mere 15 mins to reach the city centre. Apart from the images of the stadium tour, I did not take any photos of the city due to the fact that I had mismanaged my time.
When coming to the UK, one should visit London city at least once. As one of the most visited cities in the world, London is half a size larger than Singapore. It is busy, vibrant and there is really a lot to see. Yet in the light of the recent terror attacks in London, one cannot help but have security concerns about the terror threat. With two hours train ride from Norwich, I seldom arrange a full day trip to the city unless I have specific matters to do there. Expenditure in London can also be relatively quite expensive. I can remember I have visited London in at least five occasions.
This scene was taken on the tube station platform of Hoxton, a district East of London. The cloudiness in the sky is a typical weather in the UK. From this vantage point, I could see parts of the metropolitan and parts with construction works. Then there is the London tube coming towards the train station.
The morning rush in Stratford, a district east of London. Commuters were heading towards the railway station or the bus interchange. Whenever I pass by this area, I would be awestruck by the beautiful decors of the shopping centre. I arrived early in London that day to see to some print matters and captured this scene as a remembrance.
Due to the heavy congestions in London, many locals here choose to travel by either the tube or bicycles. Cycling is a great way to save money on travel expenses, explore the city and get some exercises at the same time. There are cyclist lanes everywhere in London and even the roads can get pretty congested with cyclists during peak hours. Here is a street scene along Westminister bridge.
The Orangery, in the Kew Gardens. I made Kew Gardens a top priority during my first visit to London during my summer break. This was partially due to the influence of Sir Attenborough in his three-part documentary series, “Kingdom of Plants”. The Kew garden is a huge and beautiful place, very much different from the Singapore Botanical gardens. I pick this image because apart from the usual garden photos we are expected from the garden, I wanted to show the garden from a different perspective; although I could have picked other images from my collection. In this case, it was the scene of the visitors resting after a day’s tour, but signs of plants visible and the airy structural building, hopefully, enough to suggest what the place is.
One London Bridge is a high quality refurbished office building located right beside the London Bridge. I was attracted by the unique design of the building and the particularly reflective surface of the office windows on a bright sunny day. This image would form a visual impression of a distinctive busy London office in my memory.
The iconic St Paul’s Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral and the mother church of the Diocese of London. Beside the cathedral is a shopping mall with an accessible rooftop garden which one can view the breathtaking London skyline at any time of the day. After a couple of visits to this area, often in gloomy weather, I’m glad that I was finally able to capture the bright blue sky against the dome of St Paul’s, causing vibrant reflections on both sides of the window screens of the shopping mall. Unfortunately, I have not entered the cathedral as the entrance fee for visitors was too expensive for me.
A moment in time at the Bank junction, the historical and financial centre of London, at which nine streets converge in the heart of the city. It is also where the Bank of England is located. Behind the Royal Exchange London stands the Leadenhall building, an office building iconic to the skyline of London. Nearby construction works were in underway for a new office tower.
While exploring the Camden Town Market, a family looks for direction on where they are going to visit next. This image was taken through a window on the second-floor vantage point.
As the train heads towards Norwich from London central, a man glances out to see the London stadium. This scene sort of depicts my afterthoughts every time I travel back to Norwich after spending a day in London, even there are interesting scenes to see while on the way back. Parts of the ArcelorMittal Orbit can be seen on the right side of the window.
Stairs leading to the basement floor of One New Change shopping mall. Apart from the classic shot of St Paul’s Cathedral, I found this image to be a distinctive part of the shopping scene in the One New Change, where shoppers are almost everywhere.
Curating images for this series has been a challenging process for me. There are some images that I felt could have been part of the series but falls short on certain elements. For me, having a coherent style or not wasn’t as important as selecting interesting visuals of places that had impacted me during my time in the UK. Instead, I took much care in arranging the series as a whole, not too much and not too little. Here are some images that I felt did not make it to this series, I’m including them here as part of sharing my developmental process.
Sheringham, taken from inside a coach. I thought this scene here kind of gives it a character, an impression of the busyness of the small town.
When I first explored the Camden high street, I was intrigued to see that almost every lamppost has got banners on, enticing customers to patronise their shop due to its close proximity.
Picadilly Circus, taken outside the metro station. being able to see these old building structures first hand is an awesome experience. but the fact that has become a crowded touristy spot and a shopping district, hence the omission of this image.
London Chinatown. I enjoyed the experience of walking through familiarity, at least once.
On my way back, I happen to chance upon a rather interesting architectural design of the Stratford ONE student accommodation by Unite Students. I thought there was very little narrative element in this image, hence the omission.
In my previous research which explores the concept of “The Provocative Landscape”, I investigated the representation of the landscape through the tourists’ eyes and question how images of cities and landscapes could provoke reactions and thus relate to these images from a personal perspective. As my journey in the UK has come to an end, it is then I realised the significance of these photographs I have captured during those two years. By adding the element of my own personal narrative to my images, I started to see how they could somehow come together as a series.