Rowing at dawn, a Gold Medal picture, was taken by Yip Cheong-Fun at Tanjong Rhu in Singapore in 1957 at a time when Singapore became a self-governing State. It marked the dawn of a new day, with new hopes and a new life for Singapore. Notice the auspicious motifs of two sea dragons and a school of fishes in the shimmering reflections of the sea. To the Chinese, the dragon is the ultimate symbol of good fortune. In a sense, this print is often regarded as a symbol of good luck.
As an artistic creation, the forte of this photograph is the symbolism of pictorial elements - the sea as life or the life force itself, the movement of the boat as Man's effort or struggle in the voyage of life, the sampan or in some cases, the fishing nets as our heritage and the junks as our past. Lastly, dawn represents a new beginning, new hopes and aspirations. A recurrent theme in Yip's seascapes is the undaunted spirit of the average Singaporean represented by a lone boatman and his indomitable courage, always pitting him against bigger objects or in this instance, giant power-driven ocean-going vessels or the surging sea and tide. In the words of the artist, every ripple, every wave in the sea brings good fortune and prosperity. To the experts, the delicate play of light and shadows, the balance of the boats, the expanse of the water combined to make the photograph a memorable work of art. "The study combines the qualities of light, atmosphere and mood,poses a timelessness and yet a freshness," according to W.Y. Choy of NDD, London, and a fomer Curator and Director of Singapore's National Museum.
Rowing at dawn - a poem by Andrew Yip
A new dawn,
A new morn.
Shimmering lights and shadows in the sea
And what fishes and dragons our eyes can see.
Waves and ripples with far-off furrows follow
Sampans and junks filed out from anchors, deep or shallow.
Tall ships time-tested like tempered steel thru many a gale,
Majestically they moved with their mighty masts and stately sail.
Even while wind and waves still whipped with a swishing sound,
Amidst a mix of lashing, thrashing and flapping around,
The air did seem softly soothed by a sweet song of praise,
That herald in hope, faith, fortune and fairer days.
Then keep rowing at dawn and feel God's grace,
As magical as the grey mist on the sea's face.
Photo: Yip Cheong-Fun
Poetry: Andrew Yip