What was your assignment brief?
One to two weeks prior, the photo editor emailed that their journalist was going to take a trip on The World Dream – and that it’d be great if you can go with her. Of course, I was very excited. I mean, it is not travel but at least it is some kind of getting out of the country. The scope of the brief: how was it like to travel and be on a cruise during such a time? Also, what lessons can the US learn from this experience and how the cruise was being managed.
And they published thirteen compelling photographs to showcase that. What were the visual challenges you faced?
The first challenge was the restrictions. For example, we had to do the swab test twice – once before we board and the second time when we alight from the cruise. I felt this test was a critical part of this experience because it showed how much precaution the Singapore government took to make this happen. Unfortunately, I couldn’t photograph that. Besides restrictions, visually I was concerned: how many people will be on the cruise? (Note: 1700 from the article) I understand that it was at half capacity. There may be less activities and a lack of human interaction. Am I just going to get empty facilities and empty spaces? So that was the two biggest challenges for me.
What surprised you during this assignment?
I was surprised at how efficient and how well everything was organised. I was afraid there would be a long queue and a long waiting time – meaning you had to wait for the test results before you could board. I’ve seen people and the discomfort in their faces when taking these tests. I’m afraid my tolerance for pain was quite low.
But it was a different type of test and was not painful at all. Then there was an area to wait for 15 to 20 minutes. The test results came out and we boarded. There were social distancing ambassadors, reminding people to keep their distance and to put on their masks. You also had this token which everyone had so that they can monitor your movements and, your proximity with people, in case something happens.
And that also meant negotiating access in some areas?
We had documents from a press conference that included safety measures. I went through that and I had an idea what to shoot, and what would be visual. I had to communicate that to the PR team, so they could make arrangements for us. For example, photographing temperature screening for all their staff on the cruise, twice a day. But areas open to guests, or the public, I could roam around.