The Tjong A Fie Mansion is a two-story mansion in Medan, North Sumatra, built by Tjong A Fie (1860 – 1921) a Hakka merchant who came to own much of the land in Medan through his plantations, later becoming ‘Majoor der Chineezen’ (leader of the Chinese’) in Medan and constructing the Medan-Belawan railway. Tjong A Fie is said to be related to Cheong Fatt Tze, who built the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion in Penang, Malaysia. The building is constructed in Chinese-European-Art Deco style, and was completed in 1900, and said to have been modeled on the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion.
Jalan Sudirman is a major roads that links south Jakarta to the center of the city. In the mornings at the rush hour the traffic moves slowly. Busses, cars, motorbikes. Near the pedestrian bridge I cross every day, I often see this man who is on duty and keeps the sides of the road clean. Here he was walking south, having a moment for himself.
For the last three years I have been cycling to work here in Jakarta. On my way to the office I have to walk across a pedestrian bridge over one of the stations of the Transjakarta bus line, Halte Senayan. A year or so ago I started to carry my camera and take photos from the bridge as well as under the bridge. Having the camera with me and taking photos every day has made me discover all what is going on here every day: the people commuting to work, the food sellers, the crowded minibuses Kopaja, the motorbikes drivers, the musicians, the workers at new Jakarta underground system. When I was walking pass Halte Senayan without my camera I missed most of that. I did not notice it. I was thinking about the day ahead, the meetings, the emails, etc. The pedestrian bridge and Halte Senayan was unremarkable, because I did not noticed all what is there. Having the camera with me was like opening my eyes to a place I am go through everyday, twice a day. Discovering it in a new way. Here some of the photos I have taken so far.
I took this sequence of photos at sunset on the island of Belitung, on the east of South Sumatra, Indonesia.
Few days ago I posted this photo on Instagram.
A friend, who is following my account, then sent me a questions in the comments section: how do I deal with ethics in my street photography. Good question.
Over the years, I have been reading a lot about street photography: the beauty of black & white photography, street photography techniques, the best cameras and lenses, and, last but not least, blogs where professional and amateur street photographers wrote about their do and don’t in street photography.
One blog that I remember more vividly is the one by Lilly Schwartz . In one of her blog post she lists the rules she follows when taking photographs of strangers in the street.
During the last few days I have been re-thinking what I consider right or wrong in doing street photography.
While there is a great degree of subjectivity on which rules we apply to ourselves, I think that above those subjective rules there is (at least for me) a more universal rule which is about respect to others and of ‘not doing harm’ when taking photos of people in the streets.
The specific rules that I have for myself and which I try to follow come under this general principle and are subjective in the sense that they are shaped and defined by the values I have been given through my education and upbringing, my own character and what I feel comfortable to do (and not to do) .
1. I never take a picture of homeless people of any age. Not even by asking them whether I can. I just do not do it. It does not feel right to me. I did it once, about 10 years ago while walking in the street of Old Delhi near the Red Fort. The moment I took the photo, I knew I was doing something wrong. I have not done it ever since.
2. I ask, whenever possible, if I can to take a photo of someone. Here in Jakarta I speak enough Bahasa Indonesia to have a chat and ask if I can take a photo. Most of the times the people I meet are happy for me taking a photo of them and showing them the result on the LCD screen. People often ask me to take their picture particularly when they are in a group. If someone says no; no problem. A smile, an apology, and all is good.
3. There are cases like the photo above where I cannot ask permission to take the photo. The man was on a bus moving quickly along a busy road in Jakarta. However, I do not feel I am stealing something. My aim is document the common everyday life of people living in cities. I am not a professional photographer and do not make money out of the photos I take. I share my photos through my blog and social media as a way to share with a larger community a moment, a split second that for a reason or another I felt was worth capturing to contribute to telling a story that is unfolding every day, every hour, every minute in a city.
4. If a person has second thoughts and ask me to delete the photo I can do it in front of their eyes showing the LCD screen. However, this is not happened to me yet.
5. I tend not to use telephoto lenses for street photography. I usually take photos with a 35mm equivalent or a 50mm equivalent lens. This means that people do notice me and it is easier to ask for permission. I would use a zoom to take a photo of a crowded place from a distant view point.
6. I only take pictures of children when they play happily or together with their parents.
Again, thank you to my friend for asking what rules I follow for my street photography which has made me to write this blog.
Dreaming the future and making it happen. Jakarta is building the Mass Transport System. There will be tube stations like this one. Will there be more people and passangers that this photo? I hope so, otherwise the project will go broke pretty soon. Some people say that this massive project is too little too late and that the traffic congestion in Jakarta is so severe that it is beyond rescue. There is one way: how about giving more space to bicycle commuters? Create incentives like tax deductions, or pay back for spare parts or simply showers in office towers.
I set out to take one photo per day for 35 days using my Olympus 17mm f1.8 lens which produces an equivalent field of view of approximately 35mm. It was a project like many others. What I wanted to do was to force myself to see things I see (or better I do not see) on my way to office. I also wanted to walk in the kampung near my home in Jakarta and see what is there and how people live through the lens of my camera. I wanted to put a target. A project with a beginning and an end. And now it has reached its end. I saw that the streets of this city are chocked by traffic. It cannot go on like this. This is paralisis. This is health hazard. This is pollution. This is not sustainable. I very few cyclists using their bicycle to go to work. Too few of them. I am one of them. There are no bicycle lanes or any other protetcion for cyclists in this crazy traffic. I saw ojek drivers whom I see every days who said: ‘Ok, you can take a photo of me.’
Thsi project forced me to look for something interesting every day for 35 days and not taking for granted the spots and people I was passing by every day. I am happy I did it. Thanks for following me!
I went for a walk in a kampung near Kemang Timur, here in Jakarta. After few minutes it started to rain quite hard. I sat under the roof of a school and waited for the rain to stop. It rained for about 15-20 minutes. There were thunders and lightening. The thunderstorm then moved on to other areas of Jakarta and where I was it stopped to rain. I left the school to walk back home along the alley of the kampung. Few meters from the school I was walking in water that was almost at knee level. Black sewage water. People were trying to protect their houses with wooden planks. I stopped to chat with some of the people living in this area. Every time there is a strong rain the area gets flooded, they said. It does not have to be a long rain, a strong short downpour is sufficient to flood these narrow alleys and houses. It gets flooded every time there is a strong downpour, not every six months or every year. Every time. Which can mean anything between three to five to six times every month depending of the season. While I was talking to them I thought how can this happen in a mega-city like Jakarta which has 173 malls and is the capital of the 16th economy in the world ? Why does this happen? Is it because people have built houses where they should not? If so, why have they been allowed to build their houses in this dangerous area and what alternatives do they have? Is it because the flood mitigation system is insufficient for the needs of the city? If so, what are the plans and investments to improve flood reparedness and mitigate the impact of floods on the livelihood of the citizen of this city, particularly the ones living in poorer areas? In the meantime, we all can do something about these problems. Report them. Document them. Share flooding information to Peta Jakarta.
This is the ‘car’ I use to commute to the office in Jakarta. It is called bicycle. There are too few of tehse in the streets of this city. Why?
The school year has ended. The summer break has arrived and it is time to prepare to go back to Europe to see family and friends. First things first: prepare the suitcases.
During the month of Ramadhan it is really different to go to malls on Saturday mornings. There are few people around. The coffee places like this Starbucks are almost empty. It is a different atmosphere, like being in a different city..
The traffic never stops in the morning rush hour. Cars, busses, motorbikes seem all to converge to an invisible destination at the end the roads. They slow down to make space to eachother. Nobody gets angry.
On Jl Sudirman an Ojek driver waiting for customers
I left the office this afternoon and hit a very busy and traffic-jammed Jl. Sudirman. This bus appeared behind the Go-Jek driver (a smartphone app mototaxi) and I liked the three guys cheering the behind.