Mendur and the Mood of the Revolution
Antara Photojournalism Gallery is holding another exhibit of the photographic works of the Mendur Brothers. This time it includes rarely published photos.
PHOTOS of a revolution are not merely a series of soldiers holding their weapons, but the spirit and mood of the people. Enthusiasm, hope, and the peoples vitality. Pictures taken by the two photographer brothers Frans Sumarto Mendur (1913-1971), and Alexius Impurung Mendur (1907-1984) show all of that.
Indonesia at the time was still young, just a few years old. With a burning passion, Frans and Alex immortalized Sukarno, Sjahrir, Hatta, Sudirman on film at different times. Their cameras were also directed towards the masses that warmly greeted them. We do not know who those people are wearing black caps, in white shirts, jammed together, shouting and cheering. We do not know what is rumbling inside their chests. But look at their expressions. The reflection of their spirits at the time makes one shiver.
"The past is never dead. Its not even past," said the American writer, William Faulkner. And its true. That is what we can see in the exhibit, Dari Peganggsaan Sampai Rijswijk at the Antara Photojournalism Gallery, Pasar Baru, Jakarta. For a month until September the exhibit displays 66 historic photos by Frans Sumarto Mendur and Alexius Impurung Mendur and several other news photographers who were part of the Indonesian Press Photo Service (IPPHOS Coy, Ltd).
Some of the photos exhibited may be familiar. One of the photos is the masterpiece Frans Mendur recorded when Sukarno read the proclamation at Pegangsaan Timur 56, Jakarta on August 17, 1945. Also there is the photo of the procession flying the Red and White flag by Latief Hendraningrat, a member of PETA (Defenders of the Homeland).
Look at the photos of Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono IX being greeted on visits to Banjarmasin and Denpasar. In one of the photos, Sri Sultan is paraded held on the shoulders of a man. Notice also the photo of tens of thousands in front of the Risjswijk palace (now Independence Palace), in an uproar greeting the arrival of Sukarno to Jakarta after hed been evacuated into exile in Yogyakarta. The feelings of longing and sense of ownership the people had radiate here.
We can imagine how Mendur went into action on December 29, 1949. Yudhi Soerjoatmodjo, photography critic from Jakarta, wrote that Alex Mendur at the time stood on the stairs of the Rijswik Palace. Alex took the position exactly in front of the podium where the president gave his speech. That day he was not alone.
At the railing of the stairs, in a different location, his colleague Frans Umbas was also ready to immortalize the historic moment with a Bush-Pressman 6x9 camera hed just bought from photographer Johnny Waworuntu. When Sukarno and the group arrived, they moved quickly to photograph that event. The results were several photos of Sukarno from different angles amid a sea of people.
The photos of Frans-Alex not only record heroic scenes, huge meetings full of masses of human beings, but also a number of more intimate and personal moments. Take a look at the photo of Sukarno on vacation with his family. With the caption, President Sukarno & Ibu Fatmawati in the village, June 1947, this photo shows Sukarno guarded by a soldier armed with a rifle, sitting on a getek, a small boat made from woven bamboo, holding a little Guntur. The number one man in the country at the time, just two years after proclamation, looks so unpretentious. Wearing a short-sleeved shirt and a round hat, Sukarno looks like a warm father.
A similar impression can be found in the photo of Hatta sitting and enjoying a cup of coffee and snacks while holding his daughter in his lap. That photo was taken when Hatta and his family were in Kaliurang in January 1947.
These photos show the intimate relationship between news photographers and the leaders of the country. According to Yudhi Soerjoatmodjo, from the beginning the government of Sukarno made use of the attentive work and loyalty of Indonesian photographers. Bung Karno, never went anywhere without being accompanied by a photographer. And photographers were always given special treatment. Bung Karno even invited Frans and Alex to breakfast. This friendship and mutual respect made it possible for photographers to take exclusive and dramatic portraits.
Nunuy Nurhayati, SJS