OUR BODIES TELL STORIES LITERALLY
Posted On 14.07.2020
FEATURING JACQUELINE CHANG
RELATIONSHIP PHOTOGRAPHER, JACQUELINE CHANG is used to capturing the intimate moments between lovers and families. When she came back to Singapore in 2013, she started her own personal photography project, titled, ‘Our Bodies Tell Stories Literally’.
Two things drew me to Jacqueline’s photo project – its specificity and its reflection of her thoughtfulness.
Her project specifically looks to chronicle text-based tattoos that are part of a bigger body of text (i.e. lyrics from a song, verses from an opera, script from a film or quotes from a book). Her hypothesis is that people with these tattoos choose them because their life stories often overlap with that body of text.
It’s interesting to note that Jacqueline herself doesn’t have a tattoo of her own. According to her, she has to overcome the concepts of self-inflicted pain and self-inflicted permanence. But she shares with me which text-based tattoo she would choose: 1 Corinthians 13 in Chinese (which also is the exact same text she first screen-printed).
Secondly, there is a certain thoughtfulness and sensitivity that evades the project, seen in the unique subject matter, and the intentional choice of location. Tattoos are both personal and permanent, and to Jacqueline, whether the tattoo has retained or lost its significance doesn’t matter, because it related to something personal and real at that point in time of the person’s life. She also shoots primarily in film, what she calls “a very mindful medium”.
“MY PHOTOGRAPHY IS ALWAYS HONEST, ALWAYS PERSONAL, AND I FEEL THAT TATTOOS ARE EXACTLY THAT.”
The whole project is also somewhat organic. Relying on word of mouth, it has been a process of meeting new people and asking around with most participants being of two degrees of separation or more. The shoot always takes place in the subject’s bedroom because Jacqueline believes that it is an autobiographical space, which also fosters openness between her and her subjects.
I’m also drawn to her courage in taking on a project that seems more uncertain than anything else.
“I don’t know who my subjects will be, who will turn me down or play me out, or how many subjects I will end up with. I don’t know what sort of bedrooms I’ll be photographing in, how deep people will engage in conversation with me, and whether I will want to find out what I will be finding out. I don’t know how this project will end, if people will understand it, or if I even need anyone else to understand my journey through this.”
“THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST UNCERTAIN PROJECTS I’VE TAKEN ON AND BY INDULGING IN SOMETHING SO UNCERTAIN, I AM LEARNING TO BE MORE EMPATHETIC.”
Inspired by her grandfather’s habit of taking photos of his grandchildren, her next project is to take instant photographs to help him remember his daily life. “Thus far in my life, whenever I take personal photos it is mostly to help me remember. This time round, it is mainly to help someone else remember.”
You can find out more about Jacqueline’s photo project here.
She also runs Singapore’s first blowout-only hair salon, PREP at Mandarin Gallery with her secondary school friends, with a second concept store PREP Luxe on the way at the beautifully conserved Capitol Building.