A Dialog between Two Lenses
Two photographers from Indonesia and Mexico traded places. The results are natural and vibrant photos.
MARIA Chico’s facial lines are quite visible. So are the wrinkles on her stretched right hand. The blue scarf does not manage to hide all the grey hairs of the 90-year-old woman. Yet, Maria still looks striking in her light-green blouse and bright yellow skirt. A yellow-blue-green necklace dangles till below her chest. Her appearance contrasts with the brown brick wall she is leaning on.
Maria’s look is different from a Javanese woman of the same age. Although both are wrinkly, the latter’s eyes look a bit droopier and tired. There is not an accessory on her but the old kebaya and the scarf she is wearing. She is lying on a piece of batik cloth. It is not clear what she is doing with a dusting broom lying beside her.
The pictures of the old ladies in two different frames were taken by two female photographers, Marcela Taboada and Desiree Harahap, and displayed at the Galeri Nasional, Jakarta from 10-28 March 2010. Harahap, a Jakarta native, captured the image of Maria Chico while Marcela, a Mexican citizen, immortalized the Javanese grandmother’s.
Desiree recounts that the exhibition is the result of her six-month journey in Mexico under a scholarship program funded by the Mexican government. Likewise, Marcela was in Indonesia for two months at the invitation of the Indonesian government. Through their lenses, they present their perspectives of the respective countries. Hence the exhibition’s title Looking at Each Other. “The exhibition is a sort of international dialog between the two countries,” Desiree says.
All of Marcela’s works are presented in black-and-white. Twenty-eight of 30 photos of Desiree are in color. Natural light without the assistance of flash coupled with the photographers’ ability to detect the subjects’ power, good moment and timing make the photos look neat and very natural.
Desiree has captured different phenomena in the vibrant country of the Mayans and the Aztecs. Most photos portray fun and cheer of various festivities. One of the photo essays titled Harvest Fiesta, for instance, has a unique composition displaying a mixture of cloth motifs, necklaces, bracelets, and hairpieces on a dozen women tiptoeing in a closely formed line. “Like a rainbow, Mexico is rich in color,” compliments the former Jakarta-Jakarta magazine photographer and also the producer of the movie Pasir Berbisik.
The black-and-white photo Mexico City Gay Pride Party also shows the fun at a gay party. Desiree captured a man’s white buttocks with the crack poking out of the holed tight leather pants, combined with the back shoulder of a well-built man in a cowboy hat and three “females” strutting, a bit of their buttocks and thighs through fishnet stockings. The buttocks, shoulder and thighs reflect Desiree’s ability to portray the public reception of the three genders in Mexico.
In another photo essay, she presents the religious behavior of the Mexicans who are predominantly Catholics. One of them is a kneeling man, positioned towards the middle of the frame with his sides showing mostly empty pews. The man’s hands are up and looks like he is about to pray. The photo manages to depict the sanctity of the holy wafers or host in a monstrance that appears tiny on the altar, the photo background.
No less interesting is the religious atmosphere captured by Marcela during her two-month tour to Bali, Java and Sumatra. Dzuhur Praying, for example, shows hundreds of students at the Assalaam Modern Islamic Boarding School in Sukoharjo prostrating very closely next to each other. Her precision in picking the right moment produces a striking composition of the female students’ prayer garbs forming quite symmetric lines.
The local culture and daily lives of the people neither escape from the lens of the stringer who teaches photography in Oaxaca City. Traditional events are not merely arts performances as Marcela also explored the pre-show process. For example, on the daily lives subject in Women Bathing in the River: two flabby middle-aged women are seen bathing in the river, squatting. With the timing, the facial expressions of the seemingly unexpressive women are perfectly captured. Not in a pornographic sense, but she also exhibits the beauty of the partially submerged saggy breasts.
The two photographers present lives in the two different worlds. Through the two lenses, they look at the other side of the world from their own perspective and portray it through the light. Also through the two lenses, both manage to have a dialog about the life of the other side.