Darren O'Brien - Singapore

We recently invited Darren O'Brien to be a regular blog contributor at Photograd as he travels to Singapore and Vietnam as part of his MA Photography course at Falmouth University. You can read his introductory post here.

Darren writes here about his 3 day stopover in Singapore. Enjoy!


I’m sitting in a hotel in Hanoi and have just had an amazing first meal of Bun Cha. I arrived this afternoon following a 3 day stopover in Singapore. We stopped in Singapore because my partner Sian lived there for 6 years when she was younger and it was her first time back in 20 years. It was my first time visiting the country so it was interesting to see the sights and share the memories. 

 Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by  Darren O'Brien

Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by Darren O'Brien

Driving in from the airport the first thing I noticed was how clean and orderly the city is. Everything has its place and is signposted. We later realised, while watching people clean the river with a boat that scoops up trash, that there is a massive workforce employed to keep Singapore looking pristine. Singapore is one of the most expensive cities in the world and it needs to keep up appearances.

 Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by  Darren O'Brien

Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by Darren O'Brien

After the 15 hour flight and crossing time zones my main aim was not to succumb to jet lag. So after dumping the bags at the hotel it was straight out to explore. Despite being in South East Asia, some areas of Singapore feel like a European city. Drinking a (very expensive) beer by the river at Clarke Quay, surrounded by an international crowd, I could have been in Amsterdam.

 Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by  Darren O'Brien

Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by Darren O'Brien

In the evening I headed to the Gardens by the Bay complex. This awe-inspiring feat of architecture, sculpture and nature consists of garden domes (similar to the Eden Project biomes) and the Supertree Grove, a group of massive tree-like sculptures that are studded with plants and light up spectacularly at dusk.

 Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by  Darren O'Brien

Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by Darren O'Brien

Nearly everything in Singapore is geared up for either entertainment, shopping or eating.  Every block has at least one shopping mall, in some areas there were two malls opposite each other.  Food plays a big part in Singapore culture and there are many restaurants and cafes, but the best food I ate was at the many food courts. There are some purpose built ones around and most malls have one too. I enjoyed well priced food from all across South East Asia and China. Chicken Rice is one of the local specialties and Sian’s favourite dish, although I am personally not convinced, she ate four plates in 3 days.

 Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by  Darren O'Brien

Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by Darren O'Brien

Whilst in Singapore I was shooting work for my Masters project and found the city a very easy place to shoot in. Though it lacks the bustle and energy of some cities, the architecture and cityscapes are excellent. The people are friendly and you can work in close proximity to people and they are generally happy to be photographed. On the second day we headed to Little India and Chinatown and these were my two favourite places to photograph as there was a little more going on on the streets. The food courts were also good value for photo opportunities.  Surprisingly the MRT trains were also quite fun to work on, again people paid no notice of the camera and if I was noticed people often responded with a simile and a nod of the head, a refreshing change from the UK streets. 

 Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by  Darren O'Brien

Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by Darren O'Brien

Now our Vietnam adventure begins and in the few hours we've been here I can see this going to be a completely different challenge. Until next time……