Street Photography Shyness

Strange: walking around Singapore with the digital camera, I see things I want to photograph, but feel shy about doing so, whereas I’d snap away without a second thought in London. I tried to pinpoint the source of this reticence, and kept hearing this little voice going “don’t look at me like that, I’m not a tourist, God forbid that I should be mistaken for a foreigner in my own country…”

I suppose this makes some sort of sense. In London I take it for granted that people see me as a foreigner, so walking around acting like a tourist changes nothing. The thing that puzzles me is that this Singapore shyness is extremely uncharacteristic – usually, if people are looking at me, the temptation is to mess further with their heads.

The sillliest thing of all, of course, is that this is what’s most likely to happen: Michelle plucks up courage, takes photo. Starts stewing in the juices of cultural discomfort, “aretheylookingatme? arepeoplelooking? what can I do to subtly show I’m not a foreigner but just someone walking around taking photos, DAMMIT, is that so strange?”. Average Singaporean walking by on the street gives her a casual glance, and forgets her the next nanosecond. His next thought is “Eh, where to makan tonight ah?” (Singlish translation: makan = eat, eh and ah = exclamations we add on beginnings and endings of sentences, just…because.)

This all means I should stop being silly and unMichellian.