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Feb 23, 2012

Free Photos for Seniors

Mr Lim, chairman of MacPherson Community Club's photography club, getting ready to take a portrait photo of Madam Chombui Ismail, 79. About 60 needy seniors have had their photos taken so far. PHOTO: DESMOND LUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES.
"Free portrait photos for needy seniors bring on smiles" By Huang Lijie, an excerpt from The Straits Times, Wednesday, February 22 2012.

Retired scrap collector Heng Sai Huay was a bit nervous on Feb 12. The 63-year-old had put on her best outfit, and volunteers had helped with her make-up before it was her turn to flash a big smile - for a free portrait photo.

"I don't have any photos of myself, except for some small identity card-size photos, so I am thankful for the free photo," said Madam Heng of the effort by the MacPherson Community Club's photography club.

Initiated by its members early this month, the project hopes to reach out to more than 200 needy senior citizens in the area.

Photography club chairman David Lim, 56, who came up with the idea, said he was inspired by a TV news programme in 2002 that documented efforts by a welfare group in Hong Kong to offer free funeral portraits to poor elderly folk.

In the case here though, the residents are free to use the photos as they like, including passing them on as a memento to future generations.

"Few of the needy elderly own a professionally taken photograph, so we want them to be able to enjoy the experience and have fond memories," said Mr Lim, a building contractor.

A commercial studio would charge several hundred dollars for portrait shots. He added that only a small number of elderly folk had refused the offer out of a belief that it was not auspicious to take a portrait shot that could be used for a funeral.

Among those who turned down the offer, it was more the fact that many had no family member to pass the photo to, said Mr Lim.

"They said they don't want to waste our resources and prefer if the chance were given to someone else," he added.

The project is being launched in phases and, in the first round, more than 100 reaidents were short-listed from the community club's database of needy elderly. Letters were sent out and calls were made to confirm attendance.

So far, more than half the residents have responded favourably and about 60 elderly folk have been photographed in a makeshift studio in the community club over the last two Sundays.

The project is being run by more than 10 volunteers from the photography club, which has 130 members, and each session is attended by groups of at least 30 elderly folk.

Besides helping them with make-up and putting them at ease in front of the camera, the volunteers also contribute their camera and lighting equipment for the occasion.

The $5,000 cost of printing and framing the photos is donated by well-wishers.

Marine Parade GRC MP Tin Pei Ling, who oversees the MacPherson ward, said the project was a meaningful outreach programme for the area's needy senior residents.

"Through this initiative, we are able to capture their smiles - their happy and beautiful moments," she said, adding that she hopes the project can spur the young to acknowledge that ageing can be dignified and graceful.

Those who have gone for the photo shoot went away with big smiles.

Madam Chombi Ismail, 79, a retired housekeeper who lives alone, said: "I wanted my photo taken because I don't have recent photos of myself. I hope my son and three grandsons will remember me by the photo."
The related blog on "Ways Done in the Past - Portrait Photography" posted here .

The photography club of MacPherson Community Club has done a splendid community service to bring joy and happy memories to the needy seniors, who may otherwise not have the chance to have a portrait photo for posterity.

A great way for portrait photography to be done as a community service for needy seniors.



Blogger ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi James,
Love this article about photography. We seniors realise there's always support for us anytime.

February 26, 2012 at 9:23 AM  

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