Coming of Age: Forgotten Faces of a Greying Asia

“Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.”

- Eleanor Roosevelt

Over two and half years between 2009 and 2010, Singaporean photographic artist David Poey-Cher TAY traveled widely across Asia (including China, Vietnam, Brunei, Myanmar, Japan, Korea, Malaysia) with his camera to highlight an overlooked part of society - the disadvantaged age, photographing elderly people he saw on the streets.

While some photographers generally prefer to work with picture-perfect celebrities or scenic landscapes, David TAY had chose to photograph the elderly people. Instead, he got on-board to an emotional journey; of photographing the forgotten, ordinary elderly people.


“By choosing elderly people as my subject, I hope to raise awareness of the ageing problem in Asia. In Singapore, one in five people will be 65 years and above by 2020.” said photographer. “It was an emotional journey as I witnessed the various living conditions of the elderly in different countries and their indomitable life-force, as well as their strong willpower to live despite facing loneliness and solitude.”

In fact, David TAY 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. What’s more, he 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.

Those resulting photos have been compiled into a book, titled Coming of Age, which was launched at the ION Art Gallery on 2 June 2011 together with an exhibition. It was David TAY’s first book and first solo exhibition. “Coming of Age is very significant to me,” said David, “I have produced so many books and exhibitions for others but this is the first time I am producing my own. So in a way the book and exhibition are my coming of age."

It is not just about David's sophisticated photography skills; instead, it is more like the unique perspective to capture the once-gloried young people who have aged, forgotten and long dismissed by the society.


This is David's most favorite photograph. He took a whole day to entertain this sweet looking, mentally-disabled man, and 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, but begged David to buy her vegetables instead...


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 over 80-year-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?


"Every face tells a story. If my pictures are able to make the viewer smile or sigh then I would have succeeded in capturing part of that story for posterity." As David journeyed along the trails of Asia, it made him realise the significance of health, company and to treasure life even more.


(All rights reserved David Poey-Cher TAY)

> Part one of the "Coming of Age" at Gallery here, and part two is here.

> Visit this page to explore more of photographer David Poey-Cher TAY's inforamtion.

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