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A shot of a lonely rider, pedalling in the rain. A photo, shot from above, of a group of delivery workers waiting to pick up their orders. Another, of a rider on his scooter, waiting to make a turn as a double decker bus rumbles past him, splashing up puddles of water.
We see these scenes almost every day and yet most of us ignore them. Not Tan Chin Hock though. The 43-year-old photographer captured these spontaneous moments in the lives of food delivery riders and created a project that tells of the daily challenges they face on the road, to remind people what they go through.
The photobook, “Drenched to Fill You Up”, received a silver award in the Non-professional book category at this year’s Moscow International Foto Awards.
Said NTUC president Mary Liew in the photobook’s foreword: “These unsung heroes have allowed us to enjoy a semblance of normalcy, but.. how many of us know the riders’ challenges in bringing food to our doorsteps?”
“I am touched that Chin Hock has thoughtfully documented the lesser seen side of our food delivery riders… be it rain or shine and the risks on the road. Through this photobook, we hope you will gain insight on their daily lives, understand the ups and downs each and every one of them goes through, and learn more about them beyond their brightly coloured uniforms.”
Chin Hock tells the Pride that he too, was like many Singaporeans who took delivery riders for granted.
He admits: “I also am guilty of just taking my food without acknowledging or thanking them.”
“I wanted to raise awareness and help viewers better understand the riders’ challenges like the unpredictable weather and dangers of being on the road. I see them as silent heroes, with families just like we do.”
Taking a personal stake
And his empathy comes from a personal place: Chin Hock worked as a full-time private-hire driver three years ago, when he became self-employed for a short stint.
“I wouldn’t say I fully understand their challenges, but we were in similar shoes. I had a brief taste of what that would feel like, even though I would say it’s harder for the food delivery riders, since they are exposed to weather conditions and they get no rest,” he explains.
Chin Hock understands well that life can get challenging and every little help goes a long way. That was why using his photobook, he raised $3,000 in support of St Luke’s Hospital, a charity hospital where most patients are elderly.
He also has two other photobooks in the pipeline — one on hawker heroes and another for children who suffer with cancer.
With the tightened Covid dining restrictions, hawkers have been coping for months with reduced income. Many of them are elderly hawkers who struggle to comprehend the complexity of food delivery apps. So, Chin Hock decided to create a photobook to capture some hawkers at work in the early hours of the morning.
“When I reached Block 85 Bedok Market at 3am, it was already bustling with activities as hawkers were rushing to prepare ingredients and set up their stalls,” says Chin Hock.
Another upcoming photobook on children’s cancer stems from a cause Chin Hock is passionate about.
He has been shaving his head for the Hair for Hope campaign — a Children Cancer Foundation fundraiser whose mission is to improve the quality of lives of children with cancer — for four years now. Apart from that, Chin Hock also has been donating blood regularly for the past 10 years.
“I just hope to be able to do my little bit for them, with whatever I can afford,” he shares. “Hopefully my photobook will inspire people to do more for these kids, so that they can receive the best care and grow up and see the world like we can.”
These photobooks are but the latest project in a long line of causes that Chin Hock is passionate about. Much of his drive is due to a wealth of personal life experiences, he laughs.
Driven by life experiences
When he was serving National Service, his mum was diagnosed with a mental disorder.
Chin Hock says that he blamed himself for neglecting his parents then, especially when his mum was suicidal.
It was a difficult time, but instead of wallowing in his guilt for abandoning his parents, Chin Hock chose to tackle the challenges head-on with his siblings.
He says: “I had two options then — forsake my parents and disconnect from them physically and mentally, or stand alongside my family and overcome our challenges. Being very close to my siblings, I benefit from our strong bonds because we can overcome anything together.”
Thankfully, she made it through the ordeal and it gave him the impetus to advocate for his first cause, which he still does — filial piety.
Sometimes, when Chin Hock walks around his Punggol neighbourhood, he looks at the flats and wonders if the families inside are living harmoniously and loving and supporting one another.
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He says: “A family is a basic unit of society. If we can manage that well and have a strong support network within the family, then we will be more resilient in our endeavours. I strongly believe that if your family is doing well, there will be a spillover effect into the rest of your life.”
His convictions about good parenting, building harmonious relationships and strengthening family ties led him to start a website called Holding Hands, to promote filial piety.
Now, the website focuses on uplifting less fortunate community members — residents in rental blocks, foreign domestic workers and migrant workers — by teaching them photography.
He offers free workshops to teach them the basics, as well as provides free rental equipment for photography projects.
Chin Hock also uses the platform to sell the photographs of aspiring Asian photographers of all ages, from 15-year-olds to seniors. The funds are reinvested into meaningful causes. He says: “I want to increase the visibility of the photography ministry and hopefully benefit more lives.”
Picked up photography for family
Following the birth of his first daughter in 2011, Chin Hock’s advocacy expanded from child-to-parent relationships to strong families as a whole. He also became an enthusiastic photographer to document his children’s lives.
As he grew his photography skills, he began posting them online to campaign for the importance of positive family relationships.
Chin Hock’s family-themed photographs were featured in the Ngee Ann Photographic Exhibition (NAPE), one of the largest photography exhibitions in Singapore, from 2015 to 2019.
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Now, Chin Hock uses his pictures to supplement his personal life observations.
He says that after attending parenting seminars and learning from experts like educational psychologist Dr Michele Borba, he has changed his perspective from when he first started advocating for filial piety.
Now a father to 10-, 8- and 5-year-olds, he shares: “I was always taught to put my parents’ needs first, even above my own family’s. But in this transformation journey, I know that I have to look after my family’s needs first, especially my wife’s.”
Give what we can
Chin Hock recalls a time when his mentor reminded him that there are many meaningful ways to give back as long as we have the heart to do it.
He says: “You can start small by donating blood, participating in grassroot volunteering activities, or even starting a blog.”
“With consistency and a willing heart, actions that are seemingly small and insignificant may snowball into a movement or campaign. Even if it doesn’t, simply helping someone you don’t know is enough to fill your heart with joy and gratitude.”