Post Script: Mois de la Photo Yogyakarta 2010
Budi Dharmawan, Project Coordinator
Finally our event Mois de la Photo (Month of Photography) Yogyakarta 2010 has been closed—earlier. This annual event hosted every November by the Centre Culturel Français (CCF) Yogyakarta was supposed to close on Saturday night, 27 November. But due to one thing and another, the event had to be closed on Friday night, 19 November—with one of its main events cancelled, which was workshop for young photographers.
Here I want to write what we, Cephas Photo Forum collective had been through from planning, preparing, to organizing—also canceling—the events during Mois de la Photo 2010: Faces of Environment, as part of the International Year of Biodiversity.
Chapter I: Genesis
the first book of the Bible, which includes the stories of the creation of the world, Noah’s Ark, the Tower of Babel, and the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.
genesis |ˈjenəsis| |ˈdʒɛnəsəs| |ˈdʒɛnɪsɪs|
noun [in sing. ]
the origin or mode of formation of something : this tale had its genesis in fireside stories.
The process of preparing Mois de la Photo started about late June 2010, just a few days after we formed this collective Cephas Photo Forum on 9 June. The CCF Yogyakarta public relations staff, Eno Dewati, came to our photo presentation forum, which we usually hold every two weeks. She told us that CCF officially offered us to co-organize Mois de la Photo in November 2010. At that time, on behalf of Cephas Photo Forum, I told her that we were interested. Nevertheless, we still had to consider a few things before confirming our commitment with CCF.
After holding a meeting and considering a few things, a couple of days later we agreed for Cephas Photo Forum to officially co-organize Mois de la Photo 2010 with CCF. We soon heard again from CCF. We had to plan for an exhibition, a discussion, and a workshop (it was their template) which should take place between 1–30 November 2010. We also had to plan the budget. We were given two weeks before we had to make something from scratch and deliver our proposal to CCF.
The first proposal draft was dated 15 July 2010. One of the things I noted was that our budget turned to be too expensive—three times the funds prepared by the CCF. Event plans were also still abstract, speakers for the discussion were not decided yet, tutors for the workshop were still imagined, the theme for the workshop was still too broad, etc. We kept revising until finally the fourth draft, September 2010, was accepted by the director of CCF Yogyakarta, Marie le Sourd. Phew….
A lot of things changed and developed from the first draft up to the fourth. Among them, we decided to add another event to the Mois de la Photo 2010 agenda: slideshow projection of works by our friends Asian photographers. Through this event, we intended to broaden the discourse of photography enthusiasts in Yogyakarta and build a network among Asian photographers. We contacted a number of photographers we knew from some photography festivals and workshops we had previously attended to send in their work.
Towards the end of the programme finalization, we also had a confirmation from WWF Indonesia. They wanted to present one of their programmes in West Kalimantan, a local community empowerment project through participatory photography which they called Panda Click.
Many things happened during our preparations since June until today. We still handle our regular photo presentation forum which we hold once in every two weeks. Most of us are working photographers who sometimes have to leave Yogyakarta for our assignments: Naga to Jakarta, Ifan to deep inside Papua and the forest of Sumatera, Oscar to Kalimantan and Flores, while I myself travelled across East Java and to Bali.
Some of us are involved as admins at Kelas Pagi Yogyakarta, which currently is also preparing the first batch students’ exhibition. Some others were also involved in Jogja Photographers Gathering event—which eventually was postponed concerning Merapi volcano eruption. In between those activities, fortunately we still had time to celebrate Ifan’s birthday :-)
Chapter II: This and that
this and that (or this, that, and the other) informal various unspecified things : they stayed up chatting about this and that.
Entering October, our activities became tighter as we were chased by deadlines. We had to collect our Asian friends’ work for the slideshow projection, edit our own work for the exhibition, write our statements, organize the programme, design the poster and web publication, decide the assignment theme for the workshop participants, prepare the discussion outline, revise the budget, contact the discussion speakers and the workshop tutors to fix a few things, spread the information about the workshop, confirm the equipments availability at the venues, this and that….
The end of October was marked by the hiking volcanic activity of Mount Merapi. On 25 October, on behalf of Cephas Photo Forum, I signed the contract with the CCF Yogyakarta concerning the disbursement of funds for Mois de la Photo. Marie the director hoped that Merapi would not erupt. Later on, she corrected her own statement, Merapi could erupt anytime, she said, but let us hope for everything to be alright.
That day we spent the disbursed funds to print the photos for our exhibition—starting with Ifan’s work. Ifan wanted his prints to be done soon as he had to stand by if Merapi volcano suddenly erupted—and right, on the evening of the next day, 26 October, Merapi erupted. Mbah Marijan, the spiritual keeper of the volcano, was killed in the event, along with several other people.
Because of the eruption, we once hesitated to go on with what we had started. But then we made a deal with the CCF to keep going on with the preparation of Mois de la Photo 2010 as planned. The committee of Jogja Photographers Gathering held a meeting that night—the night before the gathering would start the next morning. The committee decided that the event would go on as planned, but would be closed soon after it was opened. The gathering was then postponed until unspecified further notice concerning the Merapi volcano eruption and the lives it had taken.
Back to Mois de la Photo. Photo printing went on for a few days. Each photographers assisted the printing of his work to inspect the print quality. Soon after the printing was done, we framed our photos, then we hung them at the exhibition venues. I found it funny that the first man to have his work done was Wid, whose work was to be exhibited at ViaVia Travelers Café, while the opening there was planned to be the last. On the contrary, the last man to have his work done was me, at the CCF Yogyakarta Galerie, whose opening was planned to be the first.
Chapter III: D-Day
• the day on which an important operation is to begin or a change to take effect : it’s D-day at the Websters’, as Sally gives Kevin an ultimatum.
When November finally came, our tenseness got intensified. One of the reasons—or the effects—was the hanging of the photos, which we turned out to be not really prepared for. Wid’s frames had no hooks to hang on the wall. My idea to hang my photos without frames were not clear as well, I didn’t know how to do so. So we kind of improvised on location.
Towards the opening night at CCF Yogyakarta, 2 November, Ifan was still pasting his captions under each of his photos—improvisation. He was busy covering the Merapi eruption and didn’t have time to do it earlier. But other than that, it seemed that everything went on smoothly. Quite many visitors came, though at first we feared only a few would. Volcanic ash was pouring two days before, blanketing many parts of Yogyakarta City, making people hesitant to go out. Moreover, it rained heavily in the afternoon.
Melodies played by friends from Yogyakarta jazz community warmed up the cold opening night. I remember Marie smiled and said she was happy. Even made us happier, some photographer friends came to the opening: Rony Zakaria and Kemal Jufri from Jakarta and Rahman Roslan from Kuala Lumpur. Also spotted were Jean-Pascal Elbaz of Sangam House, Mie Cornoedus of ViaVia, Elizabeth Inandiak, Eko Prawoto, Suprapto Sudjono of Indonesia Arts Institute Yogyakarta, Dwi Oblo, Arief Sukardono, Layung Buworo, Wimo Bayang of MES56, and many others whom I cannot write here. Thank you for coming!
The next day, 3 November, we were still hanging photos at Sangam House. One of the two photographers exhibiting there, Oscar, just came back from Flores, as the other one, Fauzan, was still covering Merapi eruption while waiting for the birth of his first child. That night we held an opening at Kelas Pagi Yogyakarta gallery, featuring works by Aul, Naga, and Mike. Not many people came because it rained. But we were glad that some photojournalist friends from Jakarta who were covering the eruption came to the opening: Beawiharta, Kemal Jufri, and Rony Zakaria. That night we talked a lot about many things—including about Merapi of course. That day the danger zone had just been expanded, originally 10 km to 15 km radius from the volcano’s summit.
The next night, 4 November, was the night of the opening at Sangam House. It rained again heavily, so not many people came. We sat and talked at the yoga class room which we used as our exhibition space. When people started to come, Sangam served hot Indian tea and samosa—really good for the cold night. Some visitors asked directly to Oscar and Fauzan about their work on display: a story of traditional whale hunting in Flores—how Oscar waited for days to get a photo of the whale being speared—and a story of a tiger tamer in Aceh—how this tamer is so powerful, but also so poor and has no successor.
That Thursday night I was told that John Stanmeyer’s new photo book on Balinese mysticism, Island of the Spirits, had just been delivered to my house. The book was launched in the U.S. some time ago and was about to be launched in Bali later in December. I ordered the book from the publisher as a prize for the workshop’s best participant.
Chapter IV: Force majeure
force majeure |ˈfɔːs maˈʒəː|
1 unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract.
2 irresistible compulsion or greater force.
ORIGIN late 19th cent.: French, literally ‘greater force.’
The air was not very fresh that night. We were sharing stories and just talking with some friends who came to Yogyakarta to cover the Merapi eruption. We were all anxious. Rony told us earlier that day he was going around to photograph the volcano. Midday was really dark as if it were late afternoon. Uneasy, he decided to go back to the city. Only a few hours later we found out that Merapi’s seismic activity had been extremely increasing that day. The air was not fresh because volcanic ash was pouring. And that midnight, the volcano erupted massively.
It was almost midnight when I went home from Sangam House. When I got home, there was blackout. I was enjoying the photographs in the book Island of the Spirits in candle light when I realized that there was a continual rumbling sound. I asked myself whether it was thunder or from the volcano. I would find out the answer soon.
A little after midnight the power was back on. I turned on the television. Surono, the head of Center for Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation, live on television, through the telephone, announced that the Merapi eruption danger zone had just been expanded again to 20 km radius from the volcano, effective immediately. There had just been a massive eruption. I sent text messages to some fellow photographers to ask whether they were alright and asked them to stay safe.
I heard raindrops on the roof of my house. Television channels aired footage of people in panic, abandoning their homes, running for their lives. Traffic at the Kentungan junction, the main road leading to the volcano from Yogyakarta City was heavily congested. Funny, I just passed there on my way home from Sangam House—it was quiet then—and snapped a picture using my phone camera.
My cellphone beeped. A text message from a friend, saying that it was raining gravel on her roof. I was surprised and quickly went out of the house to check. Then I found out that what I thought as raindrops were not really raindrops, it was raining sand—that kept going on for about two hours, continued with ash rain through the afternoon.
Chapter V: Dust and ashes
1 fine, dry powder consisting of tiny particles of earth or waste matter lying on the ground or on surfaces or carried in the air : the car sent up clouds of dust | they rolled and fought in the dust.
• [with adj. ] any material in the form of tiny particles : coal dust.
• [in sing. ] a fine powder : he ground it into a fine dust.
• [in sing. ] a cloud of dust.
• poetic/literary a dead person’s remains : scatter my dust and ashes.
• poetic/literary the mortal human body : the soul, that dwells within your dust.
dust and ashes used to convey a feeling of great disappointment or disillusion about something : the party would be dust and ashes if he couldn’t come.
Friday, 5 November. I only slept one or two hours. I kept on alert, because if the danger zone were expanded again to 25 km radius from Merapi, I would have to evacuate my family—luckily that didn’t happen. That morning I was supposed to go to bank to transfer money for the two workshop tutors to cover their transportation expenses. It was still raining ash so I hesitated to go. And it was cloudy, too.
I only went out when the ash rain eased in the afternoon. To my surprise, I saw the streets blanketed with volcanic ash. The ash was everywhere that it was really difficult to open my eyes. Visibility was really limited, perhaps less than 300 metres. I was even more surprised that the ash was spread quite evenly in the city, it piled up on sidewalks and street corners—even at the southern part of Yogyakarta, which is about 35 km away from the volcano. The eruption last night must have been really big.
That afternoon I went to CCF Yogyakarta to meet the director Marie. That Friday night there was supposed to be an opening at ViaVia Travelers Café. With this kind of situation and condition, I myself didn’t know what to do. Marie said she would wait for news from Surono at the Center for Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation. I also contacted the exhibition space manager at ViaVia, Amanda. Amanda told me that ViaVia’s owner, Mie, would keep the café open, so it was no problem on their side—we only had to wait for Marie to decide.
That evening I met Wid at ViaVia to put up his statement about his exhibited work. There was a customer on the table next to the wall where we wanted to put up the statement, so we just waited. While waiting, Marie sent me a message saying that we should cancel the opening at ViaVia that night—just a few hours prior to the event. I immediately sent notifications through Facebook. I stayed longer at ViaVia with Wid. Nobody seemed to come to ViaVia for the opening. And anyway it rained heavily. This time water, not ash.
The days after the 4 November eruption went by darkly—connotatively and denotatively. It was cloudy all day everyday. Internally displaced people (IDP) caused by the eruption numbered hundreds of thousand. They needed attention from people who were not directly affected. Many schools and universities were changed into barracks to accommodate the IDPs. Sangam House was closed for a few days because of the ash and two of its employees were displaced from their houses. CCF was also closed for a few days as instructed by the French Embassy. Other friends were busy collecting aids, organizing soup kitchens, or distributing logistics.
However, 10 November was the darkest day. That Wednesday afternoon Marie and I decided to cancel one of the main events in Mois de la Photo 2010: the workshop for young photographers. Soon after I found myself informing the cancelation to the two tutors, Ng Swan Ti and Roy Rubianto. That night I personally notified about the cancelation to all applicants—eighteen of them. Some applicants replied the notification email, wishing the workshop would still go on though postponed. Sorry mate, it was out of our control….
With the workshop cancelled, our last event to be held in Mois de la Photo 2010 was the discussion. Even that required a change in theme and format. At first we planned to discuss about environmental photography. What we eventually held on a Friday afternoon, 12 November was an open forum about how the eruption was reported in the media lately. That forum came out with a suggestion to hold a disaster journalism workshop. It was to prepare journalists with skills to handle disaster situations, disaster-related vocabulary, and reporting ethics.
After that, we still had the chance to host Panda Click presentation by WWF Indonesia from West Kalimantan and a number of slideshow projections of fellow Asian photographers’ work—the last was at the closing night at CCF Yogyakarta on Friday, 19 November. The closing was done in a very simple manner. CCF provided hot tea and some snacks for the guests. After the projection, those who attended had a little chat, then Marie as the director of CCF Yogyakarta gave a closing speech.
The next thing to do was to take down the photos from the exhibition spaces—we did it on Thursday, 25 November. Meanwhile, Merapi’s volcanic activity kept decreasing though the authority was still on alert. The danger zone had been narrowed, some IDPs could go home. Rain kept falling everyday, cleaning the streets and roofs from volcanic ash.
However, we are still grateful for the opportunity that has been given to us. It is delightful to note that within the last days of Mois de la Photo 2010, we had two happy events. The first is the birth of Fauzan’s first child on 19 November and the second is the wedding of Ulet on 26 November. Both proved that the end of a journey is a start for another one. Fauzan is now a father as Ifan is now a husband—new journey for both. Meanwhile, for Cephas Photo Forum, this is time to rearrange our agenda, ideals, and commitment as a group that tries to enjoy and also support photography in Indonesia.
Yogyakarta, 28 November 2010