asia-europe emerging photographers forum 2009

I was recently chosen to participate in Asia-Europe Emerging Photographers Forum "Creative Economies" in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It's an annual event which is organized and initiated by Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF). Every year, 10 emerging photographers from Asia and 10 from Europe are invited to join this event for a week of workshop, lectures, and presentation. Here are some works that I made for that forum, The Workers.

These portraits are part of my on-going project. In the first part of my portrait series, I portrayed some persons who work at a place called Alun-Alun Selatan (South Square) in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. That place, which belongs to Sultan's Palace of Yogyakarta is getting more and more crowded in the last few years, has been transforming its functions from sacred, spiritual, social, through politic and economy.

I took pictures of some persons whom I consider as a kind of "creative persons" or "different type" of workers in this portrait series. It's all about how they innovate, improvise, "being creative" with all they have or with their lack of financial resource, explore every possibilities to survive, do or sell something to earn money. In other words, it's all about how they "creatively" develop something or (in order) to be the special one, to be different from their other competitors. For me, most of them do "amazing job", something that I've never imagined before.

Nothing is fixed out there, everything are on-progress, politically and economically. Don't talk about economic crisis or global economic recession with them, some of these persons will laugh at you. They already bored with that word, they've been living with it for (almost) 12 years. It's become their drinking buddy.

In a way, I consider that the theme of the forum is very Western centric. The issue in the country where I belong is not "Creative" or "Creative Economies", but Survival (Economies).

photo caption from top to bottom:

Arif Wijanarko; 12 years old
".....sheep is 7 times cheaper than a horse"
That was one sentence that I remember when I talked with Arif for the first time. The thing that really interested me from this boy is, how he creatively make or do something "unusual" with a sheep. As far as I've seen, all of the "normal people" only use sheep for its meat and fur, but this boy can turn its "usual function" into something really different. He uses it to pull a small cart, so his "customer" or children can sit on it and then he'll walk the sheep around the square.

Before worked with sheep, he used to work with horses in that square. He only got paid 5000 IDR per day from the horses. He started to use his grandfather's sheep to earn money since less than 2 months ago.

Mr. Sugeng; 41 years old
He's one of the first persons who started to work in this square since 4 years ago. Based on his confession and from two other persons, he was the one who designed or innovated this kitchy toy; foot/pedal operated (mini) carousel, known as odong-odong in my hometown (in a way, I doubt what he said to me, before I took his picture, I had heard from somebody that odong-odong "originally" came from Jakarta) There are four others odong-odong men in this square.
When he turns around the pedal, it will move that toys up and down. It costs 2000 IDR (1 euro = 13.000 IDR) to ride on this carousel. The duration is depend on the songs (children songs) that he plays from the tape cassette during the ride, usually takes 3 - 4 minutes. He's been (only) using two cassettes in four years, which he plays everyday.

Mr. Slamet Wiryo; 48 years old and his assistant/ employee, Kancil
Same with Mr. Sugeng, Mr. Slamet is also one of the first persons who started to work in this square, since 2004. He used to be a becak/ pedicab driver, then he tried to make or design this mini becak/ mini pedicab which just as big as a wheelchair to get more money. The common becak for daily transportation in Yogyakarta or Indonesia in general, is almost three times bigger than this.

He has eight mini becak at this moment, and he rents his old becak (the big one) to another becak drivers. He said that he earns 100 -150 thousands IDR per day, and gets more than that in the weekend, and almost double in holiday seasons.

Eko Suranto; 30 years old

He's been working with this "motor train" for three months. He had worked in many fields, from construction worker through mechanic in prior. There used to be a "car train" which belong and operated by his older brother in this square, but around (or) less than a year ago, police forbade it to operate because it was too big and made traffic in that area.

After quit from his latest job as a mechanic, together with his brother, Eko started to make this "eight meters train". Sometimes the police (still) come to him for extortion.