From The Community

Committee Picks: Youth Category

Christopher Lum

After Hours.


This film lab, run by Uncle Ong and Auntie Jasmine, has probably been around longer than most of its customers. These days, they range from professionals to the kid who just picked up his first film camera. Uncle used to tell me stories of how film suddenly became popular again. He probably doesn’t remember it, but I stumbled into his shop at Balastier a few years ago, wondering if anything would even come out of mom's old camera.

That was my first roll, but the film bug stuck. I recall Uncle patiently explaining to me how to load the film. Sometimes I wonder if I would have been hooked on film if Uncle didn't spend an afternoon showing me around analog photography. I have shot many, many rolls since that day. And I'm sure from Auntie Jasmine's new and thriving instagram @whampoacolourcentre, there have been many other kids after me.


These days, business is brisk, and a typical day starts at dawn and ends well after dusk. Whampoa is one of the few labs that can do large-scale film processing. There’s probably a joke by now that Whampoa has many unofficial interns recently who help out sometimes. The work never ends, and the huge film processor still chugs along happily in the back the same way it has for the last 18 years.

Some things haven’t changed much.


Film shouldn't be a thing anymore. Honestly. It's expensive and hardly convenient. But for me, it's something that has become special. It’s the quiet conversations between the frames, the moments you can’t keep in a photo. Auntie likes to joke that once the machines stop working, it'll be time to retire. Maybe that day will come eventually.

But for now, the lights stay on at the shop with the yellow and red signboard.