Zitian & the Highway

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I finally got to shoot Zitian on Tuesday. I’ve always wanted to but have always been held back by mobility constraints which really sucks because it means relying on friends for transport or worse, public transport. It’s so much easier to do a shoot when I have a car because I have full control over where and when to go.

Back in March I did a couple shoot for Gerald and his then girlfriend in Empire Shopping Gallery. We didn’t manage to shoot in the location I wanted because of time constraints, and also because upon closer inspection, said location was physically unsafe. In the end we shot here and there, resulting in a tangential shoot that was completely different from what I imagined. When we drove away I saw this huge abandoned patch of grassland right in the middle of the highway. Ironically we left the shoot at the best time possible when the evening light was diffused and lovely, and if I had it my way I would have stopped the car and shot right there and then, but alas I was only a passenger so I only looked with longing.

I sealed up that place at the back of my mind as a to-shoot spot. When deciding to shoot Zitian I immediately thought of that place. On Tuesday with only a vague recollection of where the grassland was, we set off just before the evening light in search of that vast pseudo-hill.

While we did manage to find the place, the location quickly became the most precarious place I have ever shot in. While there was picturesque tall grass everywhere there was also a pack of stray dogs watching us intently as we trekked through the grassland to find the shade. There was a huge (I think metre-wide) drain separating the flatland bordering the highway from the pseudo-hill. The dogs were on the inner side of the drain while the outer side faced the highway. Fearing snatch-thieves I decided that we should cross the drain and risk the stray dogs.

We started shooting once we got to the other side of the drain, and I was really glad to have chosen the dogs as the lesser evil. Through our meagre hour-long shoot, all sorts of harassment were thrown at us from the highway. Once we started shooting a single motorcycle stopped by the side of the drain and shouted at us, then promptly left. As I was too distracted shooting and keeping mosquitoes at bay, I could only hear screams and whooping from the motorists. However when we were taking five, I looked at the highway and saw that THE WHOLE HIGHWAY HAD SLOWED DOWN as cars lagged behind with drivers peering at us, couples gesturing to each other about the curiosity of us and motorcyclists whooping and catcalling away. I was so grateful for the metre-wide drain to separate us from them.

We left as soon as I got some of the shots I wanted. I would have loved to stay longer and continued shooting (Zitian was so amazing I really couldn’t resist) but I felt increasingly the threat of stray dogs, mosquitoes and primeval motorists as the evening became darker. I didn’t realize how scared I was until we were all in the car and we breathed a collective sigh of relief.

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Today in the middle of a Chemistry lesson my teacher called out my name and asked if I was on a ‘photography assignment’ yesterday. Apparently she was driving on that highway when we were shooting.

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Model: Chin Zi Tian
Assistant: Michelle

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