As the year comes to a close, I would like to make some note.
First of all, I still don't understand why aren't there more Indonesian photography-related sites on the web which talk about photography more thoroughly. The only kind thriving is photo forums, but crowded as they are, the topics discussed inside these forums are mostly limited to the technical stuff. While I don't have problem with that (they're useful when you just begin learning photography), they don't offer much either for photographers who are in a more advanced phase and want to take it up more seriously. I know because I've gone through that route myself. I've been lucky enough to get to know people who introduce me to the photography world outside these forums, showing the vast possibilities photography has. From that point on, my own curiosity has been leading me to gather photographic knowledge bits by bits from here and there. But I think up to 95% (probably more) of all the things I've learned has been coming from outside the country. Aside from the occasional exhibition info, it's really really rare to come across photography related writings in any form, be it essays, reviews, opinions, or simple observations from my own countrymen on the web.
The way I see it, photographers in this country are very polarized, with very few in-between case. There's the hobbyists, who mostly learn photography as a mere side interest, with no further intention to develop their vision to communicate ideas. With the digital boom, I suspect this is the largest group of all. Then there's the professionals, who make photos because it's their job to answer the demands of the industry. I don't know how much photographers from this group who makes personal work of their own outside their commercial jobs, but it sure is hard to find one. And then there's artists who utilizes photography (often times in the broadest possible interpretation) as some raw materials for their visual art. Agan Harahap is probably one of the rare cases in Indonesia where a photographer can be successful (and popular) in both commercial and art-world, and generous enough to share stories on his blog --though sometimes they don't have anything to do with photography, but hey, as long as it's interesting. I think Paul Kadarisman is of this rare breed too? But it's more difficult to find what he's up to since he doesn't blog.
Anyway, furthermore, each of the above groups seems to be so isolated from each other, working inside their own bubble without much contact (or care) with the other bubbles. I don't know if we're being secretive, or thinking our thoughts aren't worth sharing, or simply being lazy. Whatever the cause is, there's next to nothing on the web when we want to know what's currently happening in Indonesian photography scene.
BUT... there are actually some pretty interesting developments. This year saw the births of several Indonesian sites, which, in my opinion, have promising potential to make Indonesian photography blogs scene more colorful in the future. Here they are, in no particular order:
- INTAKEs, a blog affiliated to the photo agency Ru Images (also founded this year), tends itself toward the documentary/photojournalistic side of the spectrum, and is my personal favorite from this list. Even though its posts are rather infrequent (about once a month), INTAKEs make it up by always producing in-depth, quality contents. Posts like Jan Banning lecture transcript and interview with seasoned photojournalist Julian Sihombing give many insights and stories beyond the pictures, which are invaluable not just for photojournalists, but also for anyone who wants to extend their photographic horizon. INTAKEs is maintained by Okky Ardya and Rony Zakaria, whose superb works I deeply admire.
- Also on the documentary front there's Citrakostha who's helmed by my friend Karolus Naga. Citrakostha takes photo essay contributions from anyone, and lean toward a more personal approach of documentary photography.
- On the lighter side of things, there is duasatugram by Richie Pakpahan whose own quirky photos I always look forward to see. The concept of the blog is simple enough: You send a photo to duasatugram, mentioning to whom that particular photo is directed (or you could simply say it's for everyone). The photo gets posted on the blog, and the 'recipient' will get noted that someone has sent him/her a photo. S/he will then be able to reply the photo with his/her own. In short, it's a visual correspondence. Which is open for all to see and participate in. It might not be an original idea, but the 'mails' are completely unedited and seeing the pairs (original-reply) that people come up with can be fun and refreshing.
- This year was also Cephas Photo Forum's birth year, founded by 8 photographers in Jogja including yours truly. The forum originally intended as an alternative gathering place for photographers to share and discuss their works, open for anyone to attend. Though at this point we're still struggling to build an audience (along with other problems of our own), we have ideas to utilize the blog to produce contents and attract more people.
Though it would seem that all the above endeavors (aside from INTAKEs) celebrates the unknowns, the 'nobodies' of Indonesian photography world, I still think this is the right step for a more open discussion between all participants. Hopefully other, more established photographers will catch on the spirit of these individuals and create interesting venues themselves within this next year.
As for me, as you might already notice from the recent past entries, I'm also trying to write more on the blog (hopefully not at the cost of less pictures!) Bear with me as I clumsily try to organize my thoughts, 'kay?
With all that said, hope 2010 was a good year for all of you, and 2011 will be an even better one. Happy New Year, guys!