Friday, January 12, 2007

Jonathan McIntosh ~ a different kind of Jakarta landscape




Jonathan McIntosh is an digital-media artist, social justice activist, photographer and Indymeida journalist living in the Boston/Roxbury area. I found these photographs when I was looking for some info about Jakarta. My curiosity was picqued after posting Rarindra Prakarsa's photographs.

Apparently life for children in Jakarta is not all skittles and cream as Rarindra's photographs might have us believe.

I'll have a bit more to write about this in an addendum to this post over the weekend. An in-law from NJ with a car load of kids is due very soon, so I don't have time right now. While they're all out skiing tomorrow I'll write my peace/piece. Feel free to chime in any time.

FYI, I haven't had any contact with Jonathan Roxbury. I downloaded and posted his photographs under a Creative Commons attribution license. See more of his photography from The Garbage Ring - Jakarta Indonesia

FEATURED COMMENT: Jim Jirka wrote: "So in seeing this and Rarindra's images, would you then consider the former to be "ecoporn" of a different type?"

publisher's response: Jim, my first response is somewhere between rage/anger and the calm cool collectedness it will take to write a 10,000 word response. I am going to try to contact Rarindra again and get a fix on his "intent" although I'm not certain how much that really matters.

FEATURED COMMENT: Joel Truckenbrod wrote: "It's clear that our concept of "poverty" in the U.S. exists in another realm from what these people experience everyday. I am humbled and am not quite sure what else to say."

publisher's response: I am humbled as well - and angered (not at Jim J.) at a world that allows this to exist) and I am also struggling with "what to say". It seems somehow....well....not "wrong", but not "right" either to natter and blather about notions and ideas regarding the medium of photography.

To speak to Joel's reaction of not knowing what to say, I find it nearly impossible to view McIntosh's photographs as photographs in any of the ways in which photographers often view photographs - these photographs do not seem to have "composition", "quality of light", or any of the other photographic trappings we commonly employ. Both the referent (the object of the camera's gaze) and the connoted are so powerful that any "things-photographic" thoughts are simply obliterated.

As Mary Dennis opined, "...The power of imagery is truly awesome, is it not?

Ott Luuk's comments (not too harsh at all) spoke to Jim Jirka's question of truth vs beauty. Ott stated/asked, "My guess is that Rarindra`s photography is just a form of escapism, knowingly creating a blissful dreamworld to hang on the wall for those times you really don`t want to look out of the window....should I be scorned about growing a nice garden with roses and stuff around my house when my country`s forests are being cut down for quick profit...?

I would asnwer that question by stating that it's all very much a matter of intent. If, along with some roses, you also planted your head in the dirt - ostrich-and-sand-wise, I'd say that, yes, you should be scorned. Is that what Rarindra is doing? I don't know for certain, but, in the absence of any statement of intent otherwise....

Rarindra has a very broad presence on the www. I can find nothing about his intent other than his statement to me - "You should visit my beautiful country someday.", which is usually accompanied by a statement about the "millions" of beautiful places and "objects" available to be photographed. He seems to love and take great pride in his country.

Sure. OK. Fine. But, if Rarindra had offered even just a hint that his fanciful photographs spoke to the "innocence lost" in the face of the horrid human degradation that exists in his beloved country, I might not be inclined to venture that Rarindra's photographs are a very fine example of fiddling while Rome burns.

Or, to put it an American context, how would you feel about idyllic and fanciful photographs of black children frolicking carefree in Elysian Fields as representative of our "beautiful" country?

12 Comments:

Anonymous Jim Jirka said...

So in seeing this and Rarindra's images, would you then consider the former of "ecoporn" of a different type. Especially on the order of the beauty and not the real?

1/12/2007 10:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Jim Jirka said...

Mark,
I hope it is not rage and anger with me? I was just trying to relate the beauty to the real.

My name is Jirka.

1/13/2007 05:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Joel Truckenbrod said...

It's clear that our concept of "poverty" in the U.S. exists in another realm from what these people experience everyday. I am humbled and am not quite sure what else to say.

1/13/2007 07:44:00 AM  
Anonymous mary dennis said...

Fascinating indeed, the complete polar extremes of subject matter from these two photographers from the same place. Somehow I get the feeling that Rarindra is looking at his world through a different filter, seeing it completely differently than what Jonathon McIntosh has seen and photographerd. It feels like there is a huge crevasse between social class here that is laid bare for us to ponder while perusing the portfolios of these two photographers. I can't say that one view is more legitimate or honest than another though, to be honest. Do they both exist? It would seem so...unless a great deal of trickery is going on with the images. If both worlds do exist in Jakarta, then what a HUGE divide that must be. That makes me uneasy.

1/13/2007 12:45:00 PM  
Anonymous ott luuk said...

My guess is that Rarindra`s photography is just a form of escapism, knowingly creating a blissful dreamworld to hang on the wall for those times you really don`t want to look out of the window.

I don`t see anything bad in that as long as one`s not trying to pass it as reality. For me, the aesthetics of Rarindra`s photos look as if they`ve beem borrowed from a cover of a fairy-tale book. For mistaking them for real - does everyone who takes photos in the Far East really have to fight the ignorance of the western man?

For another example - should I be scorned about growing a nice garden with roses and stuff around my house when my country`s forests are being cut down for quick profit? Should I really litter my personal space with mud and tree stumps to raise awareness amongst my neighbours? Maybe some guy from rich country X will see my garden and think that our country is covered in blooming rose bushes? Oh the humanity...

1/13/2007 01:59:00 PM  
Anonymous ott luuk said...

Sorry if my comment above is a bit harsh. I don`t even like roses that much...

1/13/2007 02:11:00 PM  
Anonymous mary dennis said...

The more I think about the huge dichotomy between these two bodies of work the more I think it's essential to have a fuller understanding of Rarindra's artistic intent. As I read a little further it would appear that the class struggle (and all it's branching ramifications) in Jakarta, and Indonesia itself, is a massive battle. I plead guilty to being an american idiot regarding the history, ancient and recent, of Indonesia and in that ignorance I am pliable. The power of imagery is truly awesome, is it not?

1/13/2007 03:43:00 PM  
Blogger Billie said...

Stephen Dirado
www.stephendirado.com/
and I were emailing about Rarinda's images and he suggested that I look at the Hudson River School of painters. They were using the same luminism and romanticism of nature as Rarindra.
www.artchive.com/artchive/hudsonriver.html
Click on some of the painters listed on the side of the article.

1/13/2007 11:08:00 PM  
Blogger Atmawarin said...

I'm from Indonesian just like Rarindra. And come along with that, I hope my comment could add new perspective about what Rarindra intent.

Indonesia is huge. Even me (who have travelled arround 20 islands or more-yes islands) still felt unfamiliar with this part of the globe. Some part of our country were expansive, with jungles and sheer tall mountain, panoramic view and its sturdy silent people. But some part were dark, full of garbage, smoke and noisy people get killed. Those two world in one country were not mixed together. They were seperated. And when they were seperated, it's nearly impossible to have a clear focus on your eyes to capture Rarindra intent.

To speak the truth. In Indonesia, Me and my generation hold a great dissapointment in goverment-that act like a thieve. One thieve goes down but another thieve elected. They were people that have most responsible on what Johathan McIntosh capture in Jakarta. Poverty.

While some people get permission to exploit our country (and its you who live in "the west") from the thieves. There some part of our country that remains the same. Freeze by the time. Those part are part that I told you before. Expansive, with jungle and sheer mountain, sea, panoramic view and sturdy people. In this part of Indonesia, people are not concerned with computer, Mother Theresa, celluler phone or striptease. And as you can see in Rarindra portofolio. They were happy. That's not myth happiness.

Me and my generation still struggle to fix poverty in this country. But hence..there's a lot of time when we were felt very sad about what happened in our country. Mad And loose the spirit to change the way our goverment rule. Tired on corruption and lazy people.

When that times come, looking in some Rarindra's photograph give us good feeling.

Still. Rarindra may dont have any clue about what he has done. I think he's just want to make a beatifull portrait of Indonesia and represent it in dreamy way. The reality sure is not good as the photo. But looking at his portofolio give me sense of pride. We love this country. And will do something to make it remain loved.

Call it third world fake realism. But for me it worth something.

2/14/2007 04:17:00 PM  
Blogger cumi laut said...

Hi I'm Cumi, sorry to breach in like this, but I currently reside in Jakarta and by birth a pure Indonesian; thus believing to have at least a right to give a humble opinion.

Watching Rarindra's photos do bring some shock, but only on the level of aesthetic; the way he uses colors, fogs and lights in his works, a surreal work that's just too 'paintingish'.

on the children's imagery, however, I can assure you that what he depicted is pretty much the everyday life of Indonesian children; but probably not in Jakarta.

For me the streets shaded by big trees, the vast paddy field, the lush leaves, the fathers and child laying on the grass, old woman with traditional attire, all look obviously familiar in the village where I came from (which is the Central Java; a small part of Indonesia) and pretty much other villages in other rural areas within the country.

those questioning whether his photos coming from people who posses, I doubt that too.. Indonesians in rural areas -mostly Java- has their way of behaving, which are mostly shy, but easy to hang around with people once they show up good manner (and speak their language, which is the third level of Bahasa Jawa; Ngoko; the language of respect used for elderly people). As a Javanese myself, there's no way you can ask this people to pose, even if you paid them a great deal of money.

Rarindra probably knows the language -and probably a Javanese himself- making it easy for him to travel around Java.

Jakarta is a heavily polluted city -a messy one too, while most children you see in the streets do spend most of their time there with their parents begging for money from people in cars and buses in the crowded junctions or just passerbies.

Like Rarindra, what Jonathan McIntosh did was not displaying the average life of children in Indonesia, he merely pointed out some on the worse level of poverty and boosting them up.

is Rarindra's works a lie, a bogus? In the side of lightings and shadows, IMHO I thinks it is his after effect techniques that make things seemed rather so. But the children; their expressions, their laughs, how they spend sometimes on top of cows and all that sorts, is as real as McIntosh's works.

I really sorry if I offended you in anyway by bulging in like this.

I'm not speaking on behalf of any photographer, but I do hope I give enough 'insider' point of view on the matter.

thanks

12/19/2008 01:33:00 PM  
Blogger cumi laut said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12/19/2008 01:50:00 PM  
Blogger cumi laut said...

"Or, to put it an American context, how would you feel about idyllic and fanciful photographs of black children frolicking carefree in Elysian Fields as representative of our "beautiful" country?"

this doesn't seem to hit the right spot for me as an Indonesian..

Understanding the vastness of our nation, there's no way you could show a typical group of children' photography to represent the life of all kids here in Indonesia.

The whole country consists of up to 17,508 islands (6,000 inhabited) with most of the people living in one island barely ever transport to another island; especially in big Islands like Borneo, Sumatra, Sulawesi and Papua.

the social and political conditions in each area is different, you cannot represent the life of kids in Indonesia with pictures of kids living in the garbage areas in Jakarta,

that's like taking New York's life to represent the typical American life, it's just won't work..

12/19/2008 02:34:00 PM  

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