Photographer Nico Dharmajungan is exhibiting a collection of photographs he shot over many years. There is nuditybut it's not about sex.
When a photographer who takes nude photographs sets out to exhibit them, what impression does he create in the public eye? This is the question asked of Nico Dharmajungan, who is at present exhibiting three series of nude photographs at the Salihara Gallery in South Jakarta. Nico has given his work, which is on display throughout the month of March, the title 'Body and Form'.
It is very clear that he does not want his photographs to be viewed as an exhibition in search of the perfect woman's body. I have not used a single professional model to produce these photographs, Nico told Tempo at Komunitas Salihara's coffee shop, two weeks ago. They are ordinary women who do not mind being photographed without receiving any payment. Actually, whether they receive any remuneration or not, is irrelevant. What's important is that none of the models were professionals, he declared.
Nico tries to capture what is natural. Indeed, there are no overweight or disproportionate bodies on display, but the imperfections of the bodies he photographed are clearly visible. We see cellulite around stomachs that are being held in and there are unshaven armpits. Firman Ichsan, one of the curators of the exhibition, explains that Nico is trying to invite the viewer in to the realm of thoughts of the photographer about the female body and also into his outlook on life as a whole, namely that the female body may not always be perfect but it is always unique and filled with mystery and can always raise thousands of questions both in the minds of the owners, as well as in that of those viewing the photographs.
Fortunately, the photographs are in black and white so that many things (such as scars and waves of cellulite) are not too disturbing although they are visible if we look at the photographs carefully. Firman said that the use of a black and white medium in addition makes it easier for people to enjoy the photographs. It helps people enjoy them from a simpler perspective, he said. It makes the photographs more natural if not more beautiful, he added.
The series of three series on display do not show any complete face. The main reason for this is to protect the models' identity.By not showing any of the women's faces, the whole responsibility for the photos lies with the photographer. However, Nicoas is the case with many photographers in countries with freedom of expressionhas another reason for not displaying any of the women's faces. By not showing any of their faces, the viewers' attention remains focused on their bodies, commented Nico. A person's face is usually the part of a person that draws the most attention.
Nico uses three methods to hide a person's face. In the first series, Nico uses an object that tends to be rough and hard to hide the face of the model. Leaves, wreaths of flowers, nails, iron and paper are simply placed in front of the face and the area around it but not with the intention of forming a mask. Although they are diverse, all of the objects hiding the faces in the shots are intended to support the dismal atmosphere (and also belligerence) of the first series. The bodies which are totally nude have been photographed with tense muscles (not relaxed) in front of dark backgrounds and harsh shadows.
The sculptor Dolorosa Sinagain a discussion about the photographssaid that the presence of such objects make the photographs in the first series look like installation art. That may be true, but it does not matter as the main object of the exhibition remains the same, namely the human body.
In the second series of photos where the key word appears to be 'mystery,' the faces of the models are hidden behind movements or translucent pieces of material. The movements of the models photographed at a slow speed produced blurred images. Meanwhile, in the third series, Nico removes the faces from people's view by leaving them outside the frame of the photograph.It could be that right from the start he took the photographs leaving the heads of the models out or he cropped them later leaving them without heads. The original photographs are 4 x 5 inches and were then printed on square formats.
While in the first two series the bodies were transparently displayed, in the third serieswhere Nico appears to have only used one modelthe model is wearing a white shirt. The photograph is from her lips to her breasts. The two open buttons of hershirt give us a glimpse of the cleavage between her breasts, but only that. In this series Nico is almost tender. The dominant color is no longer black but rather white. There are also no longer any harsh shadows in the photographs.
The exhibition can be divided into three series with a connecting theme. However, there are also photographs that fall outside of the themes, namely the photographs of two women. Their faces, as well as parts of their limbs have been cut out of the frame. The models have also not been asked to tense their muscles or to assume any poses making their bodies appear tenselike the models in the first series. Nevertheless, they do not need to be placed in the second series because there is no movement in the pictures nor is there a translucent material covering both their faces. To place them in the third series is even less likely.
These photographs are very different and also extremely unique.
While each photograph is supposed to be connected (except for the one of the two women), it is in fact difficult to see a unity between the three series. What is the connection between the objects covering the faces in the first series, the transparent material used in the second series and the white shirts in the third? This discrepancy is understandable as the photographs were made over a span of dozens of years. Within the photographer himself, changes seem to have taken place, which further enhances his photography.
This is not a weakness. In fact, it enriches Nico's exploration of the female body. People may have opinions about the brutality in the first series of photographs, the mystery in the second series and the romanticism ofthe third series, but they will unlikely see any sign of sexual desire in any of the three series of photographs, created since the 1990s.