There's something about old photos that make you realise how time has swept through so many aspects of our lives and altered it without apology or permission. Hemlines have risen along with inflation rates while Singapore's skyline continues to pack in more skyscrapers — towering beacons of metal and steel that blot out the very shape-shifting clouds they aspire to reach.
They say that photographs don't lie and we've asked our parents and grandparents (Norman's grandmother sent over photos all the way from Australia) to share photos from the family archives that reveal a little of Singapore's storied past. Here's to personal (not national) narratives that build on our shared memories of what life was like back in Singapore's salad days.
Vanessa Caitlin | Photo Editor (@vcluxe)
"This photo was taken in the '80s when my mother paid a visit to her friend's new photography studio. She was helping her friend out by standing in for a test shot while the photographer worked on calibrating the right lighting. Thick brows may be back in vogue, but my mum was certainly ahead of the trend when she bucked the pencil-thin eyebrow look of the '80s for this set of fierce brows."
Renée Batchelor | Beauty Editor (@renee_buro247)
"The year is 1988 and I'm seen here with my two sisters at my grandmother's house in Jalan Bahagia. I'm the one on the far left. We're sitting on old-school, rattan spiral chairs that were really popular at that time. We're also wearing red-and-white 'We are Singapore' skirts, something almost everyone wore to my primary school — CHIJ Toa Payoh — on National Day. Life was much simpler. There was no Internet, cable or mobile phones so my pastimes included writing and illustrating stories and catching butterflies."
Andrea Sim | Editorial Assistant (@andreasimjz)
"Before access to the world through a palm-sized device existed, a visit to Jurong Bird Park was the highlight of the weekend for me. Fascination stemmed not from Taylor Swift's ever-growing posse, but from birds that could speak. Growing up, I had no family pets, and a visit to the bird park was the next best thing. Here, I am hanging with my feathered crew and chaperones on a typical Sunday — I'm the one with the red parrot and bright trousers — and it's been documented by my trusty Kodak."
Adibah Isa | Culture Editor (@adibah.isa)
"I have a soft spot for the Singapore riverfront. Here's where I attended my first outdoor gig at the Esplanade while I was still in secondary school, drank my first after-work tipple with colleagues from my first job, and sneaked into my friend's office in UOB Plaza One for a bird's-eye view of the river. In this family portrait circa 1991, UOB Plaza One was still under construction. This picture shows the skyscrapers of yore: (from left to right) The Hong Kong Bank building (now known as HSBC Building), Singapore Land Tower, Six Battery Road, OUB Centre (now known as One Raffles Place) which was then the tallest building in Singapore, and the OCBC Centre."
Dora Aljoofri | Fashion Editor (@doraljoofri)
"My mom has always been my style icon. Looking back at old photos of myself, I realise that she groomed us to be stylish from a very young age. This photo of my mom and I is my all-time favourite. I love everything about her outfit, especially the Peranakan belt she's wearing — a heirloom piece she intends to pass on to me. She told me that the heart-print dress I'm wearing was a favourite of mine. I had evidently outgrown it but still insisted on wearing it every other day."
Tracy Phillips | Contributing Editor (@tracyjoyphillips)
"I couldn't believe it when I found this photo taken in our old semi-detached home right behind Pasir Ris Park. From the candles, I can see that it's my 2nd birthday, a year before I moved to Australia. It was a revelation because my earliest memories of this house were only of the times after I returned to Singapore at 13. It might explain why I have so many recurring dreams set within its walls till this day; it's been a part of my history much longer than I thought. In some ways, it feels like the past is not absolute — it has the ability to change and surprise us."
Norman Tan | Editor-in-Chief (@musingmutley)
"I have never seen these photos until my Ah-ma, who diligently scoured through her mammoth collection of family photos, scanned them through to me all the way from Melbourne. Well okay, with the help of my cousin. But yes, she carried all her photo albums with her to Australia. And yes, clearly I've been practising my #ootd years before Instagram. And heck yes, I predicted the yellow-as-an-accent trend way before it hit the fall 2015 runways. In truth, all credit goes to my mother. #ShortShorts"
Denise Kok | Lifestyle Editor (@denise.kok)
"The wedding banquets we attend today are carefully orchestrated affairs. Everything from the elaborate floral centrepieces to (excruciating) PowerPoint slideshows condensing the lives of bride and groom are manifestations of the best-laid plans. In comparison, the wedding dinners of yore were a hot, glorious mess. Guests sat elbow-to-elbow while dish after dish hit the table faster than family gossip could be swapped. Coke came in glass bottles and each table had a tiny plastic tub of ice ready for those who wanted their drinks really, really cold. My grandmother (with perfectly poufed jet-black hair) can be seen here in the foreground, deep in conversation with my grand aunt. The men on my father's side of the family loved to take photos and I've inherited boxes of these beautiful vintage shots documenting everything from weddings to summer holidays in Ipoh."
For last week's #ThrowbackThursday, click here