But she wants to show how beautiful the world is: nudity, pigeons and all.
Rosalynn Tay loves photographing beautiful things. She loves the female form, with all its long lines and undulating curves. She loves delicate flowers. And she also loves pigeons.
“People think they’re pests, but I think they’re very beautiful when they fly!” She laughs.
Pigeons are, in fact, one of Tay’s frequent photographic muses, much to the chagrin of her travel companions. But the chirpy 55-year-old is hardly bothered by the avian’s negative associations — or by whatever conventional beauty is.
“I always see the world in a positive way, and I try to find beauty in everything, especially in common things,” she says.
She’s travelled through Ethiopia — the subject of her first solo exhibition in 2016 — and weathered Siberia’s unforgiving tundra, but she’ll never go on a safari, because she can’t stand the thought of animals in pain, or being eaten.
“I don’t like sad moments, that’s why I only immortalise happy things in my photography,” says Tay. “I’m like that in real life too — I forget about unhappy memories very quickly.”
Tay’s infectious bubbliness may come off as naivety to some, but there’s no denying how her cheery world view rubs off on her photographs, and by extension, on others. Her latest exhibition at the Leica Galerie at Raffles Hotel encapsulates just that.
Dream A Little Dream brings together all the things that Tay loves the most: gauzy, delicate scenes, playful photography that leaves people guessing, and of course, pigeons.
Not everyone’s a fan. Facebook, for one, has banned Tay several times for uploading pictures that have nudity in them — even if they are pictures of native Ethiopian children, or of pilgrims at the Indian Kumbh Mela festival, where devotees gather to bathe in sacred rivers.
Not that the real and looming threat of a permanent ban would ever slow Tay down — this is, of course, the same woman who suffered a retina detachment some years ago, and who brightly tells us that doctors had to use gas to push it back into place.
Tay, who suffered an early cataract due to the detachment, affectionately refers to herself as a “one-eyed jack”; Even with her contacts on, vision in her left eye is constantly blurry.
There is an upside, she says (because if anyone could find the upside in the situation, it is Tay): She has diamantaire-like vision in her right eye, making snapping photos both a breeze and a pleasure.
It’s also why Tay donated one of her paintings to auction for the Singapore National Eye Centre’s Eye Ball charity, which works to prevent vision loss through research and patient care.
Tay, who studied for a year at the prestigious Spéos photography school in Paris when she was 53, is keenly aware that she’s in a privileged position.
“I know there are not many people who have the opportunity to do what I do,” she admits. “That’s why I want to try to share the beauty of the world with everyone.”
Rosalynn Tay’s exhibition is available at the Leica Galerie Singapore at The Raffles Hotel, from now until 12th August 2019.
Snapshots is a series on some of our favourite society shutterbugs.