The Familiar Stranger

An investigative and poignant look at life’s orchestra has always been a recurring theme within the journalistic photography of Melvin Tong. His work draws inspiration from the raw representation of the world as it appears, with an undeniable tinge of artful balance to all his pictures. This series witnesses a continuation of this, but furthermore, an introduction to the artist’s call in identifying with the beginnings of one’s place of birth.

Assunta Hospital was founded by a group of missionaries from the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (FMM) in 1954. Today, after close to 6 decades of services, Assunta Hospital continues its commitment of practising good clinical governance by providing high quality and safe healthcare delivery.

The Familiar Stranger: 32 Summers Later” revisits the people, places and objects present more than three decades ago at Assunta Hospital, in which Melvin was born on the afternoon of 8 June 1981. Weighing in at 2.975kg, he was a complete stranger to the many undoubtedly strange sounds and sights of this now 59-years old hospital, none of which he could possibly remember. 32 years later, he has returned to witness and walk the premises which were once home to him in the first few days of his life at Maternity Ward, now a refurbished and converted space for the Nursing Office..

Datuk Dr. R. Menon, an obstetrics and gynaecologist welcomed the arrival of most of the babies born in 1981, and had continued to do so until his retirement in February 2013. A large portion of the Petaling Jaya Township then owed their delivery to Dr. Menon. Melvin was delivered by Dr. Menon himself. Also showcased are a number of staffs who have worked at Assunta hospital during Melvin’s birth in 1981, and are still now dedicatedly serving!

Assunta Hospital is truly one of the few hospitals left in Malaysia which still holds with it, an unsurpassed level of old-world charm and personality, clearly evidenced by the many old artifacts it harbors. This body of work explores the oldest section of the hospital, along with its numerous age-old paraphernalia, furniture, objects, fixtures and other infrastructure that have stood the test of time since Melvin’s birth. These many items are of great historical and sentimental value which strongly calls for preservation as an invaluable link to our past, no matter how unfamiliar they may be to us.

The Familiar Stranger: 32 Summers Later” invites viewers to explore their very own familiar strangers within, whether be they objects or places of significance that have existed since their birth or faint memories of long-forgotten moments that mean something to anyone. These pictures serve to remind us of the power of perseverance and the wonders of life through a journey of time.

Assunta Hospital has definitely come a long way and will continue to impress upon the lives of many for generations to come. As an iconic landmark in Petaling Jaya, its many age-old inhabitants will continue to find refuge and identity in a hospital like no other.

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