Good morning, good night.

130627 - Prints Giveaway & Photobook Gathering Report

Continuing on from the last post on little things that matter...

I want to share a bit about how and why I decided to make this improvised prints giveaway & photobook gathering session at the end of the Eye to Eye exhibition. The simple explanation would be because the idea sounds like fun, and an impromptu closing event like this sort of made sense in the context of the exhibition itself, which was prepared rather spontaneously as well (read how it came to be on the announcement post). 

But there are more than that. I also wanted to know if people would actually want to have some prints by a photographer (me) for themselves, because 'print culture' isn't that well developed here in Indonesian photography scene. When is the last time you see someone put up some photographers' work on their wall? And I don't mean the ones for vernacular uses like wedding photographs or family portraits, but... photographic artworks, for the lack of better words. We rarely do that, don't we? I think the only time some non-vernacular photographs even get printed at all is when the photographer is preparing for an exhibition. After the show is done, typically the photographer will obtain the prints back, and one of two things happen: either he/she will display the prints on his/her own place, or he/she will store them for possible future shows. In the worst case scenario, those prints won't even see the light of day anymore. Very rarely do they change hands. 

Of course there are exceptions, for example photographic prints by artists which get sold for a hefty price by their representative galleries to eager collectors. But that only happens in the high-end art circles, and somehow only seems to apply to "artist who work in photographic medium" and not to mere "photographers". I don't know, for example, if you can acquire prints by Oscar Motuloh or Erik Prasetya. And they're well known names. Things get exceedingly muddy when you want to get prints by lesser known photographers. Let's say I love a photograph made by a peer, and I want to buy a modest-sized print to hang on my wall. If I ask the photographer about it, things will get confusing for both of us. How much should a print cost? Does it have to be in editions? Does it have to be specially prepared and printed on fancy papers? Our unfamiliarity of dealing with photographic prints will keep those questions hard to answer. 

And in a somewhat related (printed) matter, photobooks are also not that popular either. Even though recently there has been a noticeable surge in Indonesian photobook publications —with some even being relatively successful— the general acceptance of photobooks in our photography scene remains lukewarm at best. Many people, even photographers themselves, are still reluctant to purchase photobooks. The most common reason is that photobooks are expensive. To which I agree. But then again, many of those same people can get photography gears worth millions... which they will justify as investment. So why can't they think of photobooks as the same thing?

Those issues are the ones I tried to (modestly) address in this event. By giving away my prints, I'm hoping that at least the people who get them can begin thinking about photographs as real objects that you can hold, enjoy, and perhaps start collecting. If there are enough people who want these kind of prints to go around, who knows, maybe we will eventually start thinking about how we can make a fair system of trading them.

As for the photobook gathering, it's something that has actually been in my mind for a while. In Jakarta there are people who started an initiative last year to make a kind of one-day-library of Indonesian photobooks (or photobooks of Indonesia) which can be read by anyone coming to the event. You can join their Facebook group here. They made two such events so far in Jakarta which I attended both, and the acceptance has been pretty great. It's such an excellent way to see all the Indonesian photobooks you can't afford, or the rare ones which have been long out of print. And there has been talk of making local chapters of the event in other cities in Indonesia including Jogja. But there are some challenges:

  • The way the event is being organized is by gathering all the photobooks from people who have them and are willing to lend them for a day. So you can imagine if there aren't that many people who have books in a given place to begin with, there won't be much to see. Obviously Jogja has less photobook collectors than Jakarta. And if the books are limited to Indonesian photobooks only, the numbers may dwindle down even further. 
  • Even if there are people who have the books, some of them might be reluctant to lend their collection, out of concern that the books may be damaged by improper handling of the visitors. 

I thought about all that stuff and then it hit me that my show and Budi seemed like the perfect opportunity to try things out. Lir has always been designed as a hideaway place to read, the venue is small and intimate so it would only need minimal preparation, and I have books I can share, so I thought.... what the hell, I'd run with it. I made some adjustments from the Jakarta gathering though: I allowed any kind of photobooks to be brought to the event so that there would be enough books to read (I don't have a big collection!) and I only opened it for around 4 hours so I could manage it by myself. 

Luckily people (well, friends, mostly) were interested enough to come even though it rained heavily for a while, and some of them even brought a few books of their own to share! We had around 15 - 20 people in total for the relatively short duration of the event, and for a try-out I guess that wasn't too shabby. It was definitely a pleasant view to see these guys browse the books, talk about them, and choosing which prints in the gallery they would bring back home. Budi even eventually decided that people could take his prints as well (wasn't in the original plan!) so it was nice. All in all, a pretty fun evening. 

With this done, I am hoping I can make a bigger scale photobook gathering in Jogja in the future. I will need to round up more people who have photobooks collection and convince them to share it, while devising a system to make sure that they won't get damaged, or worse, lost/stolen. I also want to make it longer than just one day, though also not too long. A weekend event, perhaps? I'm thinking we can give the Jogja gathering an edge from Jakarta by featuring handmade/lo-fi/small-editioned photobooks that I know some people have been making. There wasn't much of that in the Jakarta gathering. There are also a few ideas I would love to develop as side events as well, for example I am wondering if the prints giveaway can be transformed into a print swap/exchange, so we can get multiple prints from different photographers. If done right I think it could be exciting. 

For the mean time, I would like to say many thanks to everyone who attended last week. If you have any suggestions (or even better, willing to help!) on how the future photobook event in Jogja could and should be done, let me know in the comments!

130620 - Little Things That Matter

Last week I made a short visit to Solo to see a street photo exhibition called Genesis, held by three young photographers from the town: Aji Susanto, Gregory Rusmana, and Yohanes Prima (Yopri). I have known them for a while and enjoyed their good photos, plus Aji & Yopri would sometimes go to Jogja to attend exhibitions and other events, so it's only natural that I visit them in return and catch up with them.

The exhibition itself is very modest and really has that DIY vibes to it. The photographs are printed on linen papers, laid out in a 3 x 5 grid for each participant, which are then stamped directly to the wall.  And I love the fact that it is not a clean, pristine white wall. It's a greenish old one, complete with damp spots, nail marks, and chipped paints. That's because the exhibition doesn't take place in a 'proper' gallery, but instead simply in a house where they often hang out. All in all, I think the way the exhibition is being carried out really suits well with the type of photography being displayed. It's simple, unpretentious, unintimidating, and rather intimate. I would really love to see this kind of mini-show sprouting more often. 

I came from Jogja with Hardy 'Breck' by train, and when we arrived Arif Furqan was already there since the night before (through some kind of hilarious coincidence). Furqan is from Malang, though he has been staying in Jogja for about a month. The six of us knew each other over the years through the internet and various street photographer meet-ups. We, along many others, are not really in a group or collective or some kind of photographic movement or anything. We're more of a network connecting street photography practitioners who are spread out all over the country (though mostly in Java), even a few who are currently living abroad. So when some of us visit the others' hometown, these small gatherings often occur. We generally spend the time talking about what we've been up to, photos/photographers/books we recently look at, new guys who make interesting works, and recent developments that we know in street photography scene in Indonesia. Sharing new information, basically. 

I always love catching up with these guys, especially since it has become increasingly harder to find people who are doing similar things in Jogja. Though I do have my own photography niche I can have conversation with here, only a few do street photography. Even fewer still who have the same level of commitment and knowledge that the guys in my street photographer network have. And when I say commitment, I don't mean making a career out of it. It's actually kind of the opposite. The people I mentioned above, they already understand that they won't make a decent living, if any, doing street photography. Some of them have day jobs, some of them try to make money doing other types of photography. But they are still regularly out there photographing on the streets. Because they understand that there is great potential in it. Because they just know it's important to keep doing it. These guys do it out of love for the medium. That's the kind of commitment I rarely come across in the photography scene here. To do something you truly believe in even though you know it won't make you rich or famous and all that. There's a certain grace in it. 

What also makes me happy from that day was when we talked about how important it is to educate people about street photography, since it's still often misunderstood. Aji, Yopri, and Greg are making this exhibition (plus a public talk) to do just that, while Furqan and friends have also done similar discussion and sharing events in Malang. This is a good step, not only for street photography, but also for photography in general in Indonesia. While the number of photographers here are abundant, many of them still have a very limited level of visual literacy, which severely prevent more varied photographic approaches to develop and flourish. For me it's the number one reason why we keep getting the same kind of pictures all the time, even though we're living in a quickly changing time with new challenges and issues that need to be addressed. 

Of course, there are some genuinely talented photographers who make engaging works and have gained well deserved recognition for it. But for me the number is still too small. A couple of great photographers alone are not enough to make a difference in the bigger picture. And it certainly won't make much difference if we're just going after our own career and don't give back. Photography in Indonesia will still go nowhere. Instead of only a handful of talented individuals going on their own, what I think we need is a kind of bigger wave to gain enough momentum for change. But I feel like what many of us currently do now is basically just waiting and waiting until the next young talents step forward themselves. I think it's not enough. In order to see more of good local works I think we also need to reach out somehow. We need to learn to scout and spot potential talents and help them to go further by creating a condition where they're encouraged to create and develop. We need to inspire, no matter how small and insignificant it may seem on the surface. One of the ways, I think, is to spread knowledge through small but numerous and easily accessible communities, initiatives, and activities like the kind of humble show and talk that these guys in Solo do. The good news is there are more and more of this type of progress happening right now. I'm sure every little effort we do will amount to something, though perhaps we won't be the one seeing the result. If we do it out of love though, I don't think it would be a big deal at all. The feeling that "we've done our part" would be more than enough. 

130613 - Prints Giveaway!

So... apparently I forgot to notify here on the blog that my exhibition with Budi got extended until next Wednesday. Yeah, see how utterly carefree this show is? That's just how we roll. I did say on that post that I planned to give away the prints at the end of the exhibition. That plan is still going, and I also decided to add a little something to it. So here it is!

I'm giving away all my prints from the Eye to Eye exhibition currently on display until next week. There are around 60 prints in total. They are 5x7 (5R) digital B/W prints on Kodak glossy paper, unmatted and unframed. Please note that these are not some limited edition art objects or something. They are simply photographs I wish to share.

Lir Shop, Jl. Anggrek 1/33, Baciro, Yogyakarta.

Last day of the exhibition; Wednesday, June 19, 2013. Starting from 4 PM until 8 PM (Lir's closing time).

Anyone who comes during that time can grab a maximum of 2 prints from the exhibition. First-come, first-served basis. After getting the prints, you can do whatever you wish with them.

Because I can, that's why. ;)


And for the extra: I will also bring some photobooks to read on the spot during the event. Guests are encouraged to bring their own photobooks if they have, though this isn't a must. This is an open invitation to just have fun looking at photos and talking about photography in the spirit of sharing on a nice, relaxed, and hopefully not-raining afternoon-evening setting.

So please spread the info around, and see you there!