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Shifting Images

Meneruskan Tradisi (Continuing tradition) by Gusde Sidharta Putra from the Tat Twam Asi exhibition

Two photography exhibitions, one ongoing and the other recently finished, have revealed that the current breed of local photographers have shifted their attention to issues currently facing Bali, instead of focusing on the beauty of its rich culture, a theme that mesmerized their predecessors for decades.

The ongoing exhibition, titled Tat Twam Asi, began on July 24 and will run until Aug. 28 at the Griya Santrian gallery in Sanur, featuring the works of 32 photographers. Held as part of the 11th Sanur Village Festival (SVF), an annual community-based art, food and sports event, the exhibition implemented a two-stage qualification process for participants. The first stage involved a curator while the second stage will be carried out by a panel of three judges who will select the three best pictures. The winners will be announced during the SVF’s closing ceremony on Aug. 28. “It was started with a call for submissions, by the end of which the committee received as many as 800 photographs from 150 photographers,” the exhibition’s curator Iwan Dharmawan said, adding that selecting 32 works that truly represented the festival’s theme was an exhausting process. Iwan is the former photo editor of Bali Post, the island’s largest daily newspaper, and now works as a professional photographer and educator.

Hidup Indah Dikala Berbagi (Life is beautiful when shared) by I Made Adi Dharmawan from the Tat Twam Asi exhibition

This year’s SVF bears the theme “Tat Twam Asi” (I am You, You are Me), which was drawn from Balinese Hinduism’s philosophical teaching on the interconnectedness of all God’s creatures. This philosophy promotes compassion and tolerance based on the conviction that all things are created by God, God resides in all of creation and that harming another creature is equal to harming oneself. One of the difficulties, Iwan disclosed, was the fact that the participating photographers hailed from different photographic genres. Some are from photojournalism, which aims to represent objective reality, while a large number of participants come from art photography, which treats images as a medium to fulfill a photographer’s creative visions and perceptions. “I treated them the same [during the curatorial process]; the exhibit features the best from both worlds,” Iwan said. Poverty, the plight of people with disabilities and senior citizens, interethnic relations, nationalism and identity are some of the challenging themes tackled by the participating photographers. One poignant example is Turun Ilmu by Agung Rai, who hails from an art photography background. It portrays an elderly woman teaching her granddaughter to sew a national flag in a corner of a dilapidated room with a damaged roof. It is a beautiful image and at the same time it also calls attention to the rampant poverty that still haunts this nation 71 years after it proclaimed its independence.

Titik Nol (Point Zero) by Wayan “Ote” Parwana from the Water and Life exhibition

A more critical shift was displayed by photo essays featured in Project 88, a photo exhibition held from Aug. 16 to 21 at the Lingkara Photography Community in Renon, South Denpasar. Project 88 is part of the annual Denpasar Film Festival (DFF) that in 2016 entered its seventh year. The DFF focuses on educating and encouraging the country’s young filmmakers to create documentaries. “Project 88 is our way to make it easier for aspiring filmmakers to develop the storyboard for their documentary films. It will be much easier for them to make a jump from a photo essay to documentary movie than, let’s say, shooting a documentary movie straight away,” said DFF director Agung Bawantara. Project 88 required the participating photographers to present eight images and an accompanying text of eight paragraphs. As the theme of the DFF 2016 is “Air dan Kehidupan” (Water and Life), the photographers — Pande Parwata, I Wayan Martino, Wayan Ote Parwana, Wirasathya Darmaja and Dodik Dwi Cahyendra — were asked to develop their photo essays based on their views on the importance of water. Throughout the three-month process of research, field visits and shooting, they were mentored and guided by three of the island’s most promising young photographers: the award-winning Agung Parameswara (@agungparameswara on Instagram), Anggara Mahendra (@anggaramahendra) and Syafiudin Vifick (@vifickbolang). Martino, for instance, captured the daily life of laborers in sandstone quarries along the Petanu River in Gianyar. He noted how poverty had forced people to work in the quarries, knowing very well that by digging into the hills they sped up the environmental degradation of the river ecosystem. Some of the sandstone was carved into statues of Hindu deities and shrines, prompting Martino to question the role of religion in the conservation or disruption of the island’s water resources. A more personal question was put forward by Dodik Dwi Cahyendra in his photo essay on the effects of dehydration on the human body. It is a series of haunting images of chapped lips, dry skin and a lifeless torso. “Without water we will die, without water the world will die,” he said. —Photos courtesy of Sanur Village Festival and Denpasar Film Festival

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