Friday, November 14, 2008

The Age of Film (Part 2) – Photo Studios

It’s been many years since I last applied for a job. I don't know if people still pasted a passport photo to their application forms, or do they just email a digital form to their prospective employers nowadays.

This is a negative of one of my passport photos. I wonder if kids born in this century even know what a negative looked like.

I still have in my possession several small envelopes containing passport photos of me taken years ago. The youngest photo was probably taken in primary school. Growing up as a kid in Singapore, we needed to go to a studio every now and then to have our passport photos taken. The studio would hand over the photos in a small envelope like the ones shown below together with the negative; in case we needed to order more copies later.

1) Golden Palace Photo Studio in Queenstown. I blogged about it previously here. Notice that they specified, "Opposite Margaret Drive Queenstown Library"?

2) Peking Color Photo Studio at Balestier Road and Toa Payoh. Some readers mentioned this studio here.

3) Snow White & Co at Serangoon Garden Way. This one must be very old. The telephone number has only 5 digits.

4) White Mount Studio at 4½ milestone, Bukit Timah. I think it was at the row of old shops between Cluny Road and Serene Centre.

5) New Columbia Studio at Alexandra Road.

Studios like these played an important part in our lives. At key milestones of our lives, such as graduation, or wedding, we would go to the studios to have our portraits taken. Other times, it could be just to take a family portrait. But I recall that my sister and our female cousins did go to the studios occasionally to have their photos taken.

If you look at the words in the envelopes you would notice that one or two emphasized “air-conditioned”. This means that not all studios had air-conditioning in those days. Without air-conditioning, it could be quite uncomfortable for the customers. The men could be formally dressed in coat and tie whilst the ladies had their make-up. Such photography sessions could be quite long and the bright studio lights added to the heat.

Below is another of my negatives. This one was taken during my university convocation. It was held at the National Theatre and the university commissioned a studio located at Block 112 Depot Road called Ideal Colour-Photo Laboratory Pte Ltd to take all the shots of us receiving our scroll from the guest-of-honour. At that time, I didn’t even know where was Depot Road.
I doubt any of the above-mentioned studios are still around today. Would my readers know?


Anonymous said...

I was brought to a photo studio at Great World for my first baby photo; must have been about 6 months then. The outcome was a 20" X 16" photo of myself in the nude crawling on the table. I still have that black & white photo.

I too remember the family graduation photo at the photo-studio. It was "fashionable" then to have a family portrait because our forefathers never made it to the tertiary level and in a way the photo served as a reminder on how far we have come. Of course today's generation would say that is no big deal but then it meant a lot to the older generation. Before my father passed away due to illness, I made sure that my son did the honour of a family photo with his grandfather.

Lilian is ... said...

They accept both digital and physical copy :)

Lam Chun See said...

Come to think of it, I did send a couple of applications last year. I think they have digital forms.

For those who read Chinese, do you see the words in envelopes 3 and 4. Looks like that was the practice then was to scribble on the envelope to indicate that the negative is enclosed.

Anonymous said...

The "1/2" indicates 1/2 dozen or 6 pieces pf photos ordered.

Anonymous said...

Just a side note. Having air-condition was a big thing in those days, which is why it is often stated in the studio stationary.

Icemoon said...

I can't read the Chinese scribble. I think it is something 底?

Zen said...

Photographs bring back good memory. I regret not following my dad good habit of writing a short narrative behind each photograph taken (due to plain laziness and bohchap attitude), now finding it hard to pin-point past events to recollect.

Anonymous said...

Some of the little accessories I recall seeing in a photo studio.

1. a small room for that final touch-up
2. Inside that room were combs, hair brushes and mirrors. I would not dare to use any of the combs because they either contain hairs of some users or had a layer of Bryclreem due to dipping into the bottle of Brylcreem

For portraits, you needed to come back to take a look before selecting the copy. Photo studios usually take a couple of shots to allow customers to choose the "best copy".

I also notice that the photographer has a "water painting" type brush to touch-up the photograph; usually the face. I can't help but wonder how he has a steady pair of hands and good eye-sight to spot places needing a touch-up.

Anonymous said...

I must remind Chun See to blog about going to the tailor shop also. I dont mean those at Peninsular Plaza but Chinaman type.

Lam Chun See said...

Zen. Good thing I have that habit of our father's. My old photos usually have the at least the date and place scribbled on the back. So helpful when blogging nowadays.

Zen said...

Chun See - The embarassing part is that when I visited China with our mother, the photographs taken have the narratives and dates written on them by father, not me. Without his inputs, recollection of events would be painstaking.

Ivan Chew said...

I wonder if kids born in this century even know what a negative looked like.
Yeah, I'd be interested to know too!

Lam Chun See said...

Hi there. Sorry for the 'radio silence'. I was away on a Kelong Fishing trip with my son who just finished his IB (equiv to A levels) exams. I shd blog about the keolng, but so many things to blog about and so little time .... Ahhhh

Anyway, when I was at the jetty in Tanjong Lemang, I saw this shop that sold film, which means there are still people out there using film for taking photos. Maybe should have bought a roll for Ivan -:)

Lam Chun See said...

Ivan has just alerted me to this article in the Channel News Asia about analogue cameras becoming a hit with Singaporeans.

Anonymous said...

Actually I was under the impression that film still lives among a number of serious photographers... the only people I know still using film cameras are photog junkies with nice DSLRs and all. Of course they go the whole way and dabble with developing their own photos etc.

Tom said...

Tom said...
Chun See, I was in a shop that sold cameras, and I notice that they still had cameras for sale that used film ,I thought they did away with them To,any way Iam still looking for a new Digital camera, but I will wait to see if the shops will bring the price down on the cameras.