Art Talk

David Tay Poey Cher - Forgotten Faces of a Greying Asia

Life is like a sculpture. When one is young, life resembles a big, shapeless marble. As one begins to experience things, the marble is chipped into a general shape. But it is not until one has grown matured enough that the sculpture marks the beauty of one’s life.
Have you ever thought about those days…that you were still flourished with natural glow and lack of lines back then? Today, the lines are slowly creeping in, while the glow has faded away with time…

However, what you possess today can be just as beautiful, if you stop looking back. Instead, appreciate what you now have…

One sure thing; our beauty does not fade. It only evolves as time goes by.

The story begins....

It was a breezy evening as I landed my solemn steps into the entrance of  Wisma Kebudayaan SGM. Not knowing what to expect, my pulsing heartbeats were soothed by a warm welcome by one of the SGM usherers. 

Entering through the majestic-like front door, I was completely spellbound by an alluring aura swamping the entire exhibition hall. It actually felt intensely sentimental by the nostalgia-filled photographs that each seemingly painted an unforgettable story. Instantaneously I felt that everything came alive...

It was not just about David Tay Poey Cher's stunning photography skills, but I was much more impressed by his unique perspective to capture the once-glorified young people who have aged, forgotten and long dismissed by the society.

David spent two years travelling all around Asia with his camera to highlight an overlooked part of society – the disadvantaged age.
He is always inspired to capture the aging people in different perspectives. Respecting his subject’s privacy, David would ask for permission before embarking on his
snapshots of them. David never fails to initiate meaningful conversations with the people whom he takes the photos as he believes that it could somehow reveal the essence of one’s true self in the photos.
Like a traveller from ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost, David is straying away from the conventional way of only working with picture-perfect celebrities or scenic landscapes. Instead he gets onboard to an emotional journey; of photographing the forgotten, ordinary elderly people.

At times, it is an heart-wrenching experience as David witnesses various living conditions of old people in different countries…mostly residing in an dilapidated, ramshackle huts or rundown homes.

On the other hand, David sees through unhappiness in the eyes of the elderly people although some of them may be more fortunate materialistically. All in all, he is mesmerised by their strong willpower to live despite facing loneliness and solitude.

This is David's most favourite photograph. He took a whole day to entertain this sweet looking, mentally-disabled man...then captured a single shot of him smiling happily. The beauty of it? David intends to portray him as a normal individual, just like any other elderly man who aged gracefully.

Another of David's best-kept series, this photograph was snapped just in time as one of women turned her head to face her sister. I know! Looks exactly like a reflection, right? But it's not.

David passed by a market in a suburb in India, and he was fascinated with the wrinkles on this lady's face...then he asked for her permission to take her photo. The lady, not knowing David's request... begged David to buy her vegetables instead.

Life is brief, like a flickering candle blowing in the wind. The flame can extinguish anytime. Think carefully, how long has it been that you actually show your love and concern towards your parents or grandparents?

A Singaporean old lady who collects junks to earn a living, has two cats as her companions. Day by day, she communicates with the felines to soothe the emptiness of her heart.

Another Singaporean old grandma (she's already 80+ years old!) who stays alone...When David asked her why she did not choose to live with her children, she kept quiet. Sadly... but true.. some old people live by themselves, due to various reasons. Perhaps inability to blend in with family members? Or simply being abandoned as they are 'difficult' to be taken care of?

Growing more beautiful with age
Indeed, age brings wisdom.  As we become older, we learn to enjoy life because we have let go of the petty concerns of our youth. Our lives are richer as we discover more about ourselves.



As David journeyed along the trails of Asia, it made him realise the significance of health, company and to treasure life even more.
The photography exhibition entitled Coming of Age: Forgotten Faces of a Greying Asia by David Tay Poey Cher is currently showcased at Wisma Kebudayaan Soka Gakkai till June 24.

Co-organised by : Soka Gakkai Malaysia and The Photographic Society of Malaysia

As for me??
Lesson learnt: Like a good wine, life tastes better with age.
I truly feel that beauty actually comes with enriching life experiences :)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely the current opinions of the author and should not be construed to reflect the opinions, policies or positions of any entity other than the author's.