2014 has been a bit of a personalised, polarised odyssey for me.
It was a path I traversed whereupon the troughs peaked higher and dipped lower than any years of my life thus far, let alone since my travel awakening – and by extension, the photography department relished and languished just as blessedly and haplessly.
What could’ve been its lowest point was having my laptop stolen in Athens, and along with it the images I hadn’t backed up liquidising in my lack of vigilance and foresight – those will never be replaceable.
Never a pleasant intrinsic exchange, this self-reprimanding.
But I suppose that’s how the karmic cycle of one’s life operates: when misfortune befalls, you look twice as hard for the good and poignance in everything. I may have lost, what I’ve gained – the photos, the attached experiences and revelations – I don’t simply possess, or merely see, but feel. Because the swells of life reminded me to do so.
These aren’t just the most eye-appealing pictures, or scenes, of my 2014; they were the most important and memorable moments I had the privilege of perceiving in a wholesome year.
#1 Regent’s Canal, London
On the February Saturday wrought a chill that alternately battered and mellowed, I was outdoors for hours; not merely pointing and shooting – but under Stuart’s guidance, on his guided photography walking tour around Camden, capturing a story of Regent’s Canal within a frame.
#2 Roman centurion, Hadrian’s Wall
The historian even came dressed in his centurion garbs as he greeted us at the visitors centre. Gust-battered as we clambered up the countryside rampart in Northern England, I caught the glimpse of this lone centurion at Housesteads Roman Fort – like a spectre amidst ruins.
#3 The Süleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul
The Beyoğlu district had a dullness glazed over it: it was March, the rear end of winter Istanbul had yet to reemerge from. Yet amidst the waning haze and skeletal frames of naked trees, the hues of Süleymaniye Mosque stood out starkly: the blue domes, the golden of its crescent moons.
#4 Remnants of a protest, Istanbul
They were still smouldering came nightfall: the discarded heaps of cartons and cardboards were the plumes of smoke, like the boulders and shattered glass, barricading the road and sending unaware drivers swerving haplessly. This unrest was the first of many that struck Turkey in 2014.
#5 Puppeteer on North Wharf, Auckland
The old man acted silently; only his wooden rods clattered under his nimble manipulation, producing whatever sound drowned out by the music the skeleton marionette danced to, and the racket of children clamouring around the performance in the New Zealand docklands.
#6 Britomart walkway, Auckland
The transformation was the subject of my lens: one of many neighbourhoods in New Zealand’s Auckland – this behind the main transport centre – beautified by city-wide regeneration schemes. Dad grew weary of me photographing and reclined on a bench – and became a subject himself.
#7 Group photo at Ocean Terminal, Hong Kong
Coupling his ensemble. Ushering them into the frame. Instructing them to hold hands – arms extended, one following another’s lead. Orchestrating the subjects on a step ladder, Murad Osmann pieced together his latest photographic piece: a flashmob of “Follow Me To’s”.
#8 Instagram Pier, Hong Kong
The cutout figure five made abundant appearances through the afternoon: before brick walls, rusty panels, hovering over faces and painting shadows. Then, led by the local Instagrammers to this pier, the children of May cropped the dwindling horizon with an outline of their birth month.
#9 Outside the Department of Justice, The Hague
Remco Dörr, our ever-flamboyant tour guide, was whisking Peter and I through the dimensional history of Holland’s capital city. But as we passed by the Department of Justice, a scene of the present caught my attention: a protester setting up banners in a bid to make his voice heard.
#10 “Hollandia” Gate, The Hague
This snapshot perhaps best summarises my perception of The Hague for me: aged edifice juxtaposed with ever-replenishing urban development; the surging traffic of cyclists, in harmonious coexistence with pedestrians on a shared pavement; the dwelling regality of the Dutch crown.
#11 Piazza Duomo, Lecce
I could barely see when I arrived in Lecce; the Italian sun punctured its rays onto my eyelids like a thousand needles, which grew heavy under the weight of sweat. But as the day cooled, everything revealed themselves: the limestone architecture, the gilded hues – Puglia itself.
#12 Sunset over the waterfront, Otranto
It stained my corneas. Not the sort of smudge sighted distantly and imprinted onto my retina, but a tint coating my entire visual perception with its transitioning vibrances – fiery orange, florid magenta. In the Italian port town, I’d witnessed one of the most spectacular sunsets of my life.
#13 Beach bar, Santa Caterina
Ah, Beija Flor. We may have wound up at this waterside bar reclining on the rocky shorefront of Ionic Sea, but we couldn’t quite relax just yet; but once we’d streamed a live video for the #WeAreInPuglia campaign, we’d toast in the scorch, temper the waters and soak up the spectacular setting.
#14 Brixton Market, London
Had there been designated a proxy of London’s racial and cultural diversity, Brixton Market would epitomise it all. Perhaps I haven’t still forgiven myself for not discovering and unraveling it myself – that is until this year, when it became a regular haunt of mine.
#15 Calle Reyes Católicos, Granada
Perching on the top deck seat of a sightseeing bus, I found my gaze sandwiched and balanced between the street level and the lengthy reams streaming above; they didn’t just shelter pedestrians from the Spanish heat, but cast an azure hue onto the weathered beige below.
#16 Palacios Nazaríes, Granada
Last year I visited Alhambra during a nighttime entry, and bore witness to its majesty glimmering under the floodlights; but I only got to scrutinise its precision of masonry on my second visit, and paid close attention to the intricacies: textures, symmetrical designs, masterful artistry.
#17 Performer at the Battle of the Drums, Rotterdam
The raucousness ceased – the performance needed a break. Clamouring on the pavement, they rested their instruments and chattered amongst themselves. One drummer readjusted the strap of his percussion; both hands occupied, he quirkily held his sunglasses between his lips.
#18 Diorama in Pukstaavi, Sastamala
A museum dedicated to book publishing and its history in Finland: now that captured my intrigue. Amidst the exhibits were the art installations conceived of the pages of books; one was a diorama depicting a war scene scribed by the very paper narrating the story.
#19 City skyline, Helsinki
The fire station kitchen had already embezzled my breath – I cooked and served dinner for ten firemen – when the clamber up the watchtower derived me of more air. But the panorama of Helsinki, atop one of the highest points of the capital, stripped away the final air.
#20 Ripples on the lake, Kuhmo
Gaping at the crystalline stillness, an idea came up: two parts artistic and one of mischief, I tossed a pebble onto the surface and got hypnotised by the flinching ripples. I did it again, this time with three stones; as the crests propagated, I peered into the viewfinder and bottled the ripples.
#21 Houses of the Old Town, Rauma
The wood-panelled huts that lined the cobblestone alleyways defined the Finnish coastal town of Rauma; after all, it’s this very architectural feature that gifted the Old Town its UESCO status – and the accolade of one of the prettiest settlements I have ever beholden on my travels.
#22 Nekku the puppy, Rauma
In last year’s roundup, there was Flame the baby arctic fox. The gratuitous adorable animal portrait of 2014 goes to Nekku the lifejacket-donned puppy that came boating with me and Kate in Finland. This fracturing sound heard above the turbine: that was my frozen heart thawing.
#23 Cathedral interior, Ostuni
I’ve seen and admired a fair share of churches and their features in Italy’s Puglia region, and the frescoed ceiling of Ostuni Cathedral was perhaps one of the most spectacular amongst them; its vivid depictions may as well have its own gravitational field drawing my gaze – and neck.
#24 San Guillermo Parish, Bacolor
The haunting of Bacolor had gripped me even as we sped away from the Philippine township; it wasn’t that I’d seen a ghastly apparition, but the “sunken” remains of San Guillermo Parish – or what was left of it after its burial in a lahar flow – and the spectral reminder of nature’s fury.
#25 “Last Walk to Martyrdom”, Manila
Willy and I followed the trail of footsteps backwards; where they originated, caged in the confinement behind bars, the wax figure of Dr José Riza looked on forlorn for his forfeited freedom. Today was Heroes’ Day, and we came to Fort Santiago to pay tribute to one of Philippines’ founding fathers.
#26 Caldera lake, Tagaytay
After the two-hour drive from Manila, we reached our final destination on our road trip: the mountain-perched town of Tagaytay. From a viewpoint, the caldera lake – the collapsed crater of a former volcano – was a swathe of water that extended beyond the eye could see.
#27 Old woman on a bench, Piatra Neamt
The Romanian country road between Bacau and Piatra Neamt was laden with benches, leaning against wooden fences outside people’s homes. Sometimes they were empty, others congregated with chattering town folk – then there were ones occupied by lone figures deep in contemplation.
#28 View from the hotel balcony, Darau
Awaking to a giddy stupor, I huddled my stricken belly and stepped onto the hotel balcony. My irritable bowels gave me hell for the past day, so I’d shunned a two-day hike in favour of rest – in the embrace of the Romanian countryside, its tranquility and purifying air.
#29 Traditional Romanian welcome, Romanian Village
Pinching the bread, I dipped the segment lightly into the salt heap and plunged it into my mouth. As I chewed, I knew I’d fulfilled the symbolism: I accepted the token of hospitality from the master of the household, and his host of children from the local village.
#30 Acropolis at night, Athens
Larissa and I arrived too late: the metal gates to the Acropolis had already been barred shut. Deterred, since we could still return the next day, we followed the walkway exit only to discover a raised rocky outcrop; on the happenstance, we watched the sun diminish over the ancient site.
#31 Irini Square, Athens
This very spot where I captured this shot was perhaps where I’d spent most of my stint in Athens: sitting rockily on the high stool, occupying one of the outdoor tables of Manas Kouzina Kouzina, a restaurant specialising in delectable traditional Greek home cooking.
#32 TARDIS on Cardiff Bay, Cardiff
The Blue Box of the time-travelling mad man and saviour of worlds: anyone familiar with Doctor Who would recognise the renegade Time Lord’s vessel parked wonkily on the pier of Cardiff Bay – as though it’d crash-landed there and into the hearts of the series’ fans.
#33 Castle Arcade, Cardiff
The shops were only as quirky as the building that housed them: the bare-frame roof that appeared like the ribcage of a glass-skinned serpent; the wooden banisters, painted red and ivory, running along the mezzanine; distinctive Victorian in design, yet uniquely its own character.
#34 Kayaking at CIWW, Cardiff
I hadn’t realised the white water rafting coursed inside the Welsh capital, as opposed to being far removed in nature’s tempest. Stepping off the indoor surfing machine and dried in the December cold, I watched kayakers combating artificial currents – and yearned for a paddle myself.
#35 Charles de Gaulle Airport Terminal M, Paris
It was as if the carpeted floor was canvas to sunlight’s strokes, and the tinted glass panels its palette; the fainting shine painted the departure hall of the Parisian airport’s newest terminal, which is itself a design wonder. The effects also reminded me of Montreal’s Palais des Congrès.
#36 “The Pedestrian” and me, London
A particularly proud moment for me in the photography department of 2014 was when my image, which I dubbed “The Pedestrian”, was shortlisted in the Cathay Pacific Revealing China photo contest and went on display in London’s Southbank Centre. It may not have taken first place eventually, but the creation of my own conception printed and exhibited in public was a first for me – and a recognition I’ll cherish for a long time.
Many thanks to Diana Edelman of D Travels ‘Round for taking the snapshot of me and my work!
Which of the above images do you like? Leave a comment below to let us know which ones are your favourites!