Anybody who has the slightest bit of interest in Singapore’s literary scene will know who Cyril Wong is. A household name in the world of literature, Cyril is known as a confessional poet whose work explores the themes of family, self-delusion, love, sexuality, disappointment and more. To date, he’s one of two poets who have won the Singapore Literature Prize not once, but twice. But when he’s not stringing words together and turning them into lovely works of lyrical art, he’s out and about his neighborhood, creating art on another medium—Instagram. We speak with him about photography, the differences in the mediums and the best part of Clementi.
How did you get into photography?
It started when my partner bought me my first iPhone for my birthday. I’m not a professional photographer, as I merely take Instagram shots of objects, people and places that move me. The images can be quite raw, which is a quality I love. Photography is a rather instinctive process of aim-and-shoot when a moment catches both my heart and eye.
Do you usually plan your shots?
Never. It’s too troublesome or I’m too lazy. Planning makes the whole act of photography feel less “real”; like posing for a magazine or even a wedding shoot, for example, which can strike me as terribly artificial. I let time or my feelings at any given moment decide when to take the most meaningful shot.
We noticed you usually post them on Instagram without any captions. Why is that?
Because as a poet, predominantly, I feel that my words belong only in a book. Images have their own special language that I try not to diminish with extraneous, self-consciously literary descriptions.
Which is your favorite shot and why?
The images that feature both me and my partner in Clementi, for obviously sentimental and romantic reasons—they combine both the personal and the aesthetic dimensions of what I hope to commemorate in my life. The other images I love are of objects or strangers that reflect lonesome or whimsical aspects of myself.
What’s being a photographer like, versus being a poet?
To me, both artistic modes require an honesty coupled with a burning desire for insight that only the final result—either the eventual image or poem—can ultimately fulfill in an authentic, instructive or life-affirming way.
Is photography a medium you’re looking to explore in more detail?
Not really, as it’s ancillary to my main drive of making sense of my life through poetry, which is almost and already all-consuming.
Are you planning to turn this into a series in the near future?
It’s already a series online that I hope will last for as long as I’m alive and living happily with my partner in Clementi—meaning that I hope that it’ll last for the rest of my life. Or at least until we decide to move elsewhere.
What’s the best thing about living in Clementi?
My partner, of course. The nasi padang at the Avenue 2 market is not bad too.
Follow Cyril Wong on Instagram here.