Kristy Campbell – Camera(wo)man in Front of the Camera

Published by StraitsCanopy on

Hi Kristy, thanks for taking time out of your hectic schedule to chat with us. Please tell us all what you do? We rarely get insight into this realm of the creative industry. 

Thanks for having me. It’s weird being on this side of the lens! I’m a Director of Photography. In other words, I’m a camera(wo)man. My job requires me to travel a lot so I get to see the world, meet lots of people and experience different cultures in a very unique way.

That sounds like an  amazing job – we might be a bit jealous  Tell us how you started out? Where did you grow up and which school did you go to?

I was born and bred in Singapore. I went to CHIJ Toa Payoh for both primary and secondary school and then went on to Ngee Ann Polytechnic. When I was 20, I moved to Australia to pursue a degree in Film and was lucky enough to score an amazing job as a camera assistant when I came back. I had the opportunity to travel to places like Bosnia, Japan, Indonesia, Australia and so many different places in between assisting on shoots. One day, I got the chance to shoot my first show and it’s developed from there.

So what would you say your background is? 

This is a bit complicated. My mum is half Chinese-Dutch-Peranakan and half Filipino-Irish. My dad is half English and half Portuguese-Dutch-Thai. They were both born in Singapore though. I’m almost sure that’s the correct mix. It all gets a little foggy when you’re about 3rd or 4th generation Eurasian.


 Tell us about your grandparents and the history? 

 It’s so complicated because all my grandparents and some great grand parents are mixed in their own right. Each of them have their own story about how they ended up in Singapore. A lot of it has been lost forever and we discover new things all the time. For instance, my parents visited a grand aunt in Vancouver last year – Mum discovered she was part Dutch from her dad’s side. Our understanding of our heritage is constantly evolving and changing.

Does your family well and truly consider themselves Singaporean? How often do you get asked where you are from? Do you find people don’t normally associate a face like yours with being Singaporean?

Absolutely. My Dad grew up in a Kampung (village) which is now Siglap and he has been working in the Singapore armed Forces for 46 years. My Mum, Grandmother and Great-Grandmother all went to the original CHIJ which is now CHIJMES on Victoria Street. I’m talking about generations of Singaporeans but I get asked where I/m from all the time. especially from taxi drivers! My answer is almost always met with a dubious “Really?” but I’ve discovered that “I’m Singaporean la, Uncle” usually convinces most people.


 What would be your best childhood memory of growing up in Singapore? 

There used to be an old lady who sat outside the former Burger King in Holland Village. She sold a kind of homemade treacle which was like a thick caramel. She would pick up a blob from a metal pot with 2 toothpicks and you’d have to pull it yourself. You would have to be quite methodical about it because if you left it alone, it would drip all down the toothpicks and onto your hands. It must have only cost about $0.10 per blob and every time we passed her, I’d ask for one. Pure sugar in the hands of a 6 year old? Clearly this was a great idea but Dad didn’t think so. Once in a blue moon though, my sister and I would get our way and when we did, it was magic.

What would be considered a Singaporean feast in your family? 

Christmas is always something to look forward to at the Campbell household. Devil curry, rendang, feng, green chilli sambal plus a nod to the Western side with the turkey, ham and salad. All homemade by Mum only once a year. Everyone comes home for Christmas dinner. Friends invite themselves over. Pretty much anyone is welcome because no one should spend Christmas alone. True story.


What would be the top three things you would show off about Singapore to a visitor from overseas as a true insider?

Oh no. This is like “What kind of music do you listen to?”. I feel that people will automatically judge you no matter what you say. I’d love to give an “indie” answer that is obscure and “off the beaten track”, but I can’t. I’m mainstream. I like the “Top 40s” and the touristy stuff! I’m sure there’s a better list out there but here’s where you might find me on any given day.

 – The top of MBS watching the sun set behind the city skyline. It’s my favourite place in Singapore, not quite off the beaten track but on a day with perfect weather, glass of wine in hand, there is very little that can top it.

 – Geylang. But not just any version of Geylang. 2am Geylang – when the streets are buzzing with hungry people, fruit vendors, durian lovers and passion seekers. When red and blue plastic stools decorate the sidewalks and you feel the spirit of old Singapore. Dim sum craving in the wee hours of the morning? No problems. Geylang.

 – Holland Village. It’s my neighbourhood and is such a great blend of old shophouse facades which house new pubs and shops. Just walk 2 steps over and there are local hawker centers, chic coffee houses, Mexican food, Japanese food, Chinese food, not a McDonalds in sight. It’s very lovely.

You seem to have a very strong tie to our little red dot. Is there anything you wish would stay the same? 

 I hope my favourite wanton mee stall will stay open forever.

Tell us about this fab kebaya top you are wearing.

This is on loan from my sister-in-law and it was her wedding kebaya which she wore during the traditional tea ceremony part of the festivities. It’s hand embroidered and was custom-made for her. Usually you’d close it with a kerosang, the equivalent of a trio of broaches, and match it with a sarong but I think it looks pretty great as a cardigan with some jeans for a modern twist.

When you travel overseas for all your amazing assignments what are the things you miss that are truly unique to Singapore? 

Besides my family and my partner? It depends on the country we’re in. Sometimes it’s the roads that will get you from point A to point B in a reasonable amount of time, sometimes its the climate, sometimes it’s being able to walk down the street comfortably at 10pm… sometimes it’s being able to satisfy a dim sum craving at 2am…

 What would you take with your if you could take anything at all in your Straits Canopy Ultimate Tote to avoid being home sick when you are away on long shoots? 

 The truth is, I don’t get homesick often and I wouldn’t take an Ultimate Tote with me on the road unless I wanted it completely ruined! I would take it with me on a holiday packed with the necessary (wallet, phone, passport) and when someone asks me about my bag, I’d tell them about this awesome place called Singapore.

 Thanks so much for hanging with us Kristy! Now to stay up ’til 2am and head to Geylang…

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