Self-Portrait (Final Submission)

Self Portrait With Chinese Tea Set

-Tea and Me-

I am from  a small city called Teochew known for Gongfu Tea, a kind of Chinese tea ceremony. Most of the people there drink tea everyday from the morning to even the evening. Chatting and drinking tea is an important part of our daily life. When I was a kid, I used to dislike tea for its bitterness and the way we drink. The tea cups are pretty hot with the boiled water poured in and it took me quite long to learn to make Gongfu tea properly.As I grew older, I began to drink more tea because it kept me awake.

    It was only when I came to Singapore as an International student, which was a few years ago that I began to truly appreciate the value of tea. The familiar taste and smell of tea just brings me back to my hometown. It reminds me of where I came from and my family who are always there supporting me. Drinking tea is one of the most relaxing things for me now and it calms me down especially when I feel lost  or frustrated in a foreign land.


  Drinking tea on the floor of a car park seems “insane”, yet I was doing it in a really relaxed and calm way. On one hand, I wanted to show that I enjoyed drinking tea a lot. Car park is normally place people pay not much attention and come and leave fast, but I chose to sit down on it and drink tea casually. On the other hand, without looking at the camera but looking at the distance instead, I was thinking about something, my hometown as a matter of fact. Though it is hard to tell without the description, this photo still shows that I was indulged in my own thoughts through drinking tea.


  This is the simplest version for a Gongfu Tea set I brought from my hometown. It is a travel kit consists of only three tea cups and a teapot. I edited the tone of the photo so that it looked kind of nostalgic but warm. It may appear to be just a usual photo of the tea set. Actually, there are more meanings to it I tried to convey. It is a tradition to have 3 tea cups because we always drink Gongfu Tea with other people. A warm greeting of “Want some tea?” and passing a teacup to someone was just a nice gesture to show your welcomes. I missed the time of drinking with family and friends. Even when I drink tea on my own, I like to put all 3 tea cups there. However, in this photo, they were empty. It was exactly how I feel sometimes.


   I am looking at the camera this time, with a tea cup in my hand. Drinking tea is part of who I am, it is my identity. My mouth was hidden behind the tea cup because I don’t want the audience to focus on my facial expression. Am I smiling or not? The focus here is the tea cup. And my eyes are trying to tell you how I feel about them.





The rest of photos are similar that I was drinking tea at all kinds of “uncommon” places. They are slightly different on my expressions. I was closing in my eyes in the lift and smiling when sitting on the lawn in one of the photo. In another two photos, it was more hidden, leaving for audience’s imagination. The tea set was the main focus in both photos.

-The layout of the photos on the wall-

The End

Porject 1 (work in progress)

Looking at the project title of ‘Self-portrait with…’, I started to look at my room and there in front of me was everything I owned in this country. I thought of many things that meant a lot to me. They were things that I wouldn’t throw away every time I moved to a new place, which were quite a common thing for a foreign student.

I have a small blanket that I always need to accompany me in bed, which was a habit ever since I was a little kid. My parents were too busy to be around me and it sort of gave me a feeling of warmth and sense of security. There was also my tablet, my paper and pens and earpieces that I treasured a lot. It was not easy to choose among them. However, after reading The Things that matter, I stopped and stared at the tea cups right in front of me. The photos are meant to share something about me, and honestly speaking I am the kind of people who really enjoy or say need spending some quite time alone. All of the sudden, I found my objects.

Drinking tea is basically what I do everyday. When I have more time, I will definitely sit down and make tea using my Chinese tea set. Even in a busy day, I won’t give up enjoying a nice cup of tea to start my day.Therefore, I started to take photos of my tea set.



This was one of the many similar photos I took. Three tea cups and a teapot were placed in a wooden texture background at different angles. I was trying to create the atmosphere of nostalgia by arranging the lines to vanish at the end of the photo. The effect of vignette at the four corners to led the focus to the tea set. I moved on to take more photos.



This one was a photo I thought looked quite interesting. A forced perspective was there and it looked kind of like a fruit. Yet the cups and teapot were empty, which was the opposite of the concept of ‘harvest’. This was me trying to capture the emptiness I felt sometimes when I was drinking tea alone. However, I found it hard to express and  on the other hand, I felt that it was not what I wanted to tell about tea and me.


So I went out of the room with my tea set contained in this small and exquisite bag. I really liked the details and colors of it. Searching for good lightning, I took several photos of it on all kinds of places. But as pointed out by Prof, they appeared to be photos with nice composition carefully thought of, yet lacking a certain emotion or atmosphere.



These two photos were taken at places that weren’t that ordinary to have tea at. My initial intention was just to take photos of them with natural lightning and with certain depth in the space. However, after discussion with Prof, I decided to take photos that are bolder. All of the photos I took were too quite in the sense that they didn’t say much about the relationship between tea and me. Maybe what people can only see was just a nice Chines tea set, end of story.

Therefore, I decided to take photos of me drinking tea instead of just the tea set appearing in the them. In this way, I would be able to act in my expression or gesture to show how I feel about drinking tea. With the help of my friend, I took lots of photos of me drinking tea at all kinds of places. The idea of this was to firstly draw attention of the audience. And then they may know that I really loved drinking tea because I was doing it everywhere. All the different places indicate that this is part of my daily life routine. I tried my best to appear calm and relaxed in all the shots. To be honest, that was not easy as I was new at this and not to mention I was even sitting on the ground of the car park drinking tea with all the people passing by and staring. Among many photos I liked a photo of me holding an umbrella drinking tea in an open space, and unfortunately it was not really raining. However, I wished to avoid over-editing of the images and I picked seven photos out from them to proceed with further color adjustment. The photos were carefully chosen based on mostly whether I conveyed the emotions and then they were cropped according to preference of composition. Below was a small part of the exploration I went through to achieve one specific photo with the right information I was trying to express.