Thursday, May 5, 2011

Unwitting Archivers

In any landscape that has undergone rapid changes, there will come a time when there is an underlying need to capture moments in time as a means to chart out the evolution of the social and phyiscal landscapes of the past. Be it for the sake of nostalgia, safekeeping or academic reference, an archive is a valuable resource as the recent re-run of the documentary, 'Lost Images', on Okto has proven.

The documentary consists of footage taken by Dr. Ivan Polunin when he visited Malaya and later resided in Singapore during the 1950s-70s. Such footage were incredibly valuable in reflecting the lives of the people then as well as presenting the sights and sounds of certain aspects such as the orang laut community or the farming methods within the kampongs. These images would have otherwise been lost had it not been for Dr. Polunin who decided to record them now for his own remembrance and unexpectedly, for generations of Singaporeans.

Having enjoyed the film thoroughly, I realised that in 50 years time, we would not need to worry about finding archives that documents the major events of today but what about the sights and sound of everyday life? Who is the next Dr. Polunin among us not only in Singapore but everywhere else? I need not look any further than to switch on my computer and be bombarded by videos, sound bites and photos. So yes, the Facebookers, Twitterites and Youtubers will be the next Polunin!

It is undeniable that the videos and photos on these social media platforms do not have the focus of capturing a slice of life as what Dr. Polunin has done. But it is interesting to note that Dr. Polunin took those footage for his own record but never did he expect that the rolls of film sitting in his house will become a precious resource in depicting Singapore's past. Similarly, it is the candid nature and rawness of the various photos and videos that will inform our future generations of the current sentiments and culture of our time. That is why the editors at Time magazine celebrated You in 2006 and I am sure they will do the same in 50 years time. 

So what are you waiting for? Start shooting!

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