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Interview: Ore Huiying on her exhibition 'We are Farmers'

We chat with photographer Ore Huiying about family and what it's like to grow up on a pig farm

Not many in Singapore can say they grew up on a pig farm. Ore Huiying can – and she’s making more than that claim. The photographer spent years documenting her family’s farm and her relatives that live there, and will show the resulting work alongside old family photos at an exhibition simply titled 'We are Farmers'.

‘My childhood on our pig farm in Punggol had so much space. I never ran out of games to play and places to explore,’ Ore reminisces. ‘We’d be driven to and from school by one of my grand-uncles, and in the afternoon, a minivan selling bread and snacks would stop by our house every day without fail.’

Despite those idyllic days and the fact that three generations of her family were farmers, Ore swapped the hoe for the camera. Her father had discouraged his kids from continuing the business, and young Ore was free to explore her own interests. At 18, she convinced her parents to buy her a second-hand camera so she could take a basic photography course. It was just a hobby at first, but after embarking on a university course in which she had ‘zero interest’, the lure of the still image proved irresistible.

In 2008, Ore combined her love for photography with something closer to home: family. ‘Back then, I didn’t have a close relationship with my family, but I realised that they are an important part of my life. So I photographed them as an attempt to bridge my indifference,’ she says. ‘In the process, I’ve discovered that I have a most extraordinary family.’

These images will complement others, culled from her family’s archives, which depict farming practices back in the ’60s. ‘I’m not trying to be clichéd, but the exhibition tells a story of love, growth, loss and dreams,’ she says. ‘In about six years, our land lease for the farm will expire. I don’t think my family plans to renew it because there is no one to take over the business. It’s a crucial foundation for our close family ties now. It would be a great shame to see that disappear together with the farm.’

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